IT in schools policy urgently needed – IBEC

31 Aug 2005

Every secondary-school student in the country should have a laptop within five years, IBEC has urged.

According to the employers’ organisation, Ireland is currently lagging behind other countries in the availability and use of IT in our schools – and this gap is widening.

IBEC said it was concerned there appeared to be no clear Government strategy in relation to the future development of IT in schools and called on the Minister for Education and Science, Mary Hanafin TD, to indicate if she had any firm proposals in this respect. IBEC also pointed out that the overall pupil computer ratio in Ireland, 10.3, is poorer than the EU average of 9.3 and compares very unfavourably with leading countries such as Denmark (3.2), Finland (6.3) and the UK (6.9).

According to Brendan Butler, IBEC’s director of enterprise, the plan to give broadband access to all primary and secondary schools by next year was very important but “only one part of the equation”. It was also important, he said, that broadband was of sufficiently high bandwidth to accommodate the increasingly multimedia nature of content being downloaded from and uploaded to the internet, the increased use of real-time multimedia communication between schools both nationally and internationally, and a large number of simultaneous users in schools.

Moreover, broadband should not be an end in itself, he added. “While the provision of broadband connectivity for schools is supported by IBEC, it is of no major benefit in isolation. It needs to be part of an overall package to integrate ICT into teaching practice and to meet broader curriculum and assessment objectives.”

Butler complained that although some initial meetings had taken place between industry representatives and government officials about initiating a joint government-industry approach to education, progress had been “painfully slow”.

By Brian Skelly