Broadband in Schools Highlights Inequities

I do give credit to this Government when it is due and while many terrible things have been threatened or inflicted on our education system the Ultra Fast Broadband (UFB) and Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) are positive additions. Sadly, once available, the broadband is only going to benefit those who will have access to the related tools and the knowledge and skills to use them.

Connectedness to the world of the internet and the World Wide Web is now essential for a child to fully succeed educationally. Those children who have the tools to access the information and capabilities of the digital age are able to complete tasks and increase their knowledge far more quickly than children who do not. Many studies have shown that access to a home computer has increased achievement in Reading and Mathematics (Tsikalas, Lee, & Newkirk, 2007).

Many high decile schools now expect all children to have a laptop or tablet/ipad and many have classrooms equipped with an interactive white board. The vast majority of lower decile schools would struggle to get their children to turn up with lunch let alone a laptop. Providing ultra fast broadband to many low decile schools will be a little like providing a carless family with free petrol, a pointless gift. My nephew teaches at a decile 2 school and claims they have 2 computers in each class and the school has recently bought an iPad (one for the whole school). At the other end of town a decile 8 school has the senior class (year 6) all with lap tops provided by their parents. Equity, I think not.

Invercargill's Licensing Trust provided all the city's classrooms with interactive whiteboards and then supported their installation with professional development for teachers and employing full-time advisors. The chair of the Licensing Trust was a past school principal and he realized that it is one thing to provide the tools but another to ensure that they will be used to their full potential, the professional support for teachers was equally as important as providing the boards. This was an equitable introduction of useful technology, regardless of the school decile.

This National led Government has sacked most advisors and cut the Education Ministry's budget by $25 million, this may have helped fund the broadband installation but as with most of their initiatives it will probably make little difference to the struggling children that they have identified but done so little to support.


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