More than 700 disadvantaged schools around the country are going to receive cut-price software from Microsoft as an extension of the software maker’s Partners in Learning schools programme.
Microsoft Ireland and the Department of Education and Science have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will see software being provided to selected disadvantaged schools throughout the country at a nominal cost until 2008.
The schools include the 300 most disadvantaged urban primary schools and the 300 most disadvantaged rural primary schools in the Giving Children an Even Break Programme, together with the 111 post-primary schools in the School Completion Programme.
Under the terms of the Partners in Learning schools agreement, the selected schools can make substantial savings on the purchase of Microsoft Office XP and Windows XP Professional Upgrade over the duration of the agreement, until 2008.
Commenting on the announcement, Minister for Education and Science Mary Hanafin TD said: “Most children don’t recognise a world without computers and the internet, and we need to ensure that we play our role to prepare them for the world they will find when they leave school. By equipping teachers with the skills and access to technology to integrate IT into the teaching process, we are equipping our children for the information society.”
Microsoft’s Partners in Learning programme is a five-year US$250m global programme that aims to raise the level of ICT literacy among teachers and support schools in developing an internal culture of innovation. The overriding aim of the programme is to narrow the digital divide that exists amongst students. As well as providing software at a significantly reduced cost, the programme also aims to facilitate the use of refurbished PCs in schools, through an initiative called Fresh Start — designed to remove the licensing barriers faced by schools when they receive donated PCs – and focuses on the provision of teacher training, through the Innovative Teachers initiative, which is currently being rolled out as part of the TeachNet initiative.
Joe Macri, general manager of Microsoft Ireland said: “This initiative is not just a single donation of software but rather a long-term commitment from Microsoft to partner with schools, teachers, to establish a structure that will help achieve continued advances in education and learning. We are committed to working with the educational community to foster greater understanding of and access to technology and learning.
“We feel that the integrated approach that is taken through Partners in Learning to help improve IT access in schools will be beneficial for students and teachers alike,” he added.
The programme comes under the umbrella of Unlimited Potential (UP), Microsoft’s global programme focused on partnering with others to provide technology access and skills for underserved young people and adults through community-based centres. In Ireland, the programme focuses on helping to support IT access and training for people with disabilities and for people in disadvantaged communities.
Through UP, was launched in Ireland by the Taoiseach last year, Microsoft has committed to invest a total of €1m over the next three years with the value of that donation coming from a mix of refurbished PCs, software donations, time from volunteers and financial grants to support training.
By Brian Skelly