Expert wants school tablets, laptops
An education expert says the Government ''can't afford not to'' provide every child with access to a laptop or tablet computer in school, but Waikato principals are concerned that they or parents will end up footing the bill.
The Government has until next month to respond to recommendations by the Education and Science Committee, including one that every child has access to a digital device in school.
The committee also recommends that the Government investigate ''the best bulk supply arrangements to enable possible purchase by families or schools''.
Principals are concerned that, if the recommendations become policy, the extra costs will fall on schools and parents - not the Government.
''At this stage I don't see any extra money coming out for education,'' Waikato Principals' Association chairman John Coulam said. ''It would be great if it did but it would be a very expensive rollout.'' However, National Centre for Teaching and
Learning director, Professor Mark Brown, said the Government should adopt and fund the proposed policy.
''Ultimately my stance on this is if we understand the educational potential then we can't afford not to invest in this at a state level because of the benefits that will be gained and also to ensure that we will be providing equitable access to all.'' He said not providing equal access to these devices would ''amplify some of the gaps that already exist''.
''Imagine how cheaply we might be able to get some of these devices if the Government went and said 'Look, we're going to provide every child in the country with one'.
''To my mind that would be a much more sensible way than leaving parents to go down to their local retail supplier and purchase these at full price.'' A number of Waikato schools are already providing some tablets and laptops for pupils, while others have a ''bring your own device'' policy.
Hamilton's Woodstock School principal, Steve Ostermann, has 30 iPads shared between about 400 students, which he bought using trust grants and fundraising.
He said it would be helpful if the Government subsidised the purchase of devices.
''But I would say that most schools will be left to their own devices, either at a cost to parents or for the school.'' He said extra training for teachers, which was needed to ensure the devices were used effectively, would also be expensive.
Waikato University associate professor of education Garry Falloonsaid he didn't think the Government could afford to fund the proposed policy.
''In a perfect world I would say this should be on the stationery list of every kid and there should be some state support to enable it but realistically I don't think that's an option.''
- © Fairfax NZ News
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