Cost the biggest barrier to computer usage in schools
Press Release: Schools have given a strong message to IT suppliers and government that they’d like more centralised procurement of computer equipment and services to help reduce costs. This was revealed in the 2009 ICT in Schools survey, released today by the 2020 Communications Trust.
Almost three-quarters of schools supported centralised procurement of software, server infrastructure, technical support, computer equipment and broadband access.
Costs of computer equipment and upgrades continued to be viewed by school principals as the greatest barriers to more widespread use of information and communications technologies (ICTs) in schools.
The report was released today during a multi-site videoconference, supported by asnet Technologies, linking Christchurch, Wellington and Blenheim with Kaikoura High School. Local MP for Kaikoura, Colin King participated in the linkup from Blenheim, while Kaikoura High Principal Vern Van Aswegen joined in from Christchurch. Students at Kaikoura High explained how they are using ICTs in their learning.
In spite of equipment costs, the 2009 report found that New Zealand students have good access to ICTs in their schools. With one computer for every four primary students and one for every three secondary students, access is significantly better in New Zealand than in the UK. A recent UK survey(1) showed there was one computer per seven primary students and four secondary students.
The report indicates that the relatively high penetration of computers into New Zealand schools has come at a cost. On average, schools are spending around 10 percent of their operating grants on ICT, which contrasts with government provision for ICT in school operating grants of only two percent. Schools are spending over $410 million each year on ICT.
“Schools are diverting funds into ICT and this shows the importance they now place on digitally enabled learning environments,” said Laurence Zwimpfer, spokesperson for the 2020 Communications Trust. “Seventy percent of principals, over each of the past three surveys (2005, 2007 and 2009), have said ICT has improved their curriculum delivery. Yet ten years ago, only 40 per cent reported such gains.”
The report also revealed that, as in previous surveys, there is very little correlation between socio-economic status and student:computer ratios. These have remained largely constant across various school decile rankings.
“We welcome this finding,” said Mr Zwimpfer. “Our Trust is committed to ensuring that every child has equitable access to ICTs, in their schools and their homes. It is pleasing that the socio-economic status of a school is not limiting this access in any significant way.
“Regrettably, it is a different story in our homes, where according to the 2006 Census, about 100,000 families with school-aged children still have no access to the Internet. These homes are the prime target for another 2020 Trust programme: Computers in Homes.”
“NZICT is pleased to have helped with this report,” said Brett O’Riley, CEO for NZICT. “Our members see schools as very important customers, but we struggle at times to know how best we can engage with all 2600 of them; we are keen to work with government in developing preferred supplier agreements that can help to address the cost issues that are clearly of great concern to schools. We are also keen to help schools move to new models of ICT service delivery where they can get the benefits from developments such as cloud computing and server virtualisation.”
The new report also demonstrates the success of the Government’s ongoing investment in teacher professional development. In 2001, most teachers were just starting to gain confidence in using computers, while the new report indicates that over half of all teachers are applying what they know about ICTs in their classrooms, or are thinking about doing so. A striking result is the high percentage of M?ori medium teachers who are confidently integrating ICTs into the curriculum (32 percent, compared to 16 percent secondary school teachers and 22 percent primary teachers).
Other key findings in the report are:
- School computing is overwhelmingly based on PC-type Windows computers (89 percent secondary, 87 percent Maori Medium and 76 percent primary).
- Vista has made little headway against the dominant XP, reaching only 11 per cent in primary schools and three percent in secondary schools.
- Apple Macs have an increasing presence, particularly in primary schools; 26 percent of the computers in primary schools are now Macs, compared to 20 percent in 2007 and 15 percent in 2005. A lower growth trend for Macs is evident in secondary schools with 10 percent this year, compared to 9 percent in 2007 and 7 percent in 2005.
- School curriculum areas with the most computer and Internet use are Computer Studies, English, Mathematics and Social Science.
- Microsoft Office is used in all secondary schools, 97 percent of primary schools and 95 percent of M?ori Medium schools.
- Three-quarters of schools are partially or fully networked but only 55 percent have high speed networking infrastructure.
- Wireless connectivity has increased with a third of schools now providing wireless access across their school, compared to 23 percent in 2007 and 14 percent in 2005.
- All schools have access to the Internet with most having ADSL or ADSL2+ connection (55 percent primary, 64 percent of secondary and 74 percent of Maori Medium schools).
- Twenty eight percent of primary schools are dumping computers in landfills, compared to 51 percent in 2007; this change is attributed to the annual eDay programme for recycling electronic waste.
This year’s ICT in Schools survey, carried out for the 2020 Trust by Research New Zealand was supported by a number of partners from government and business. They included the Ministry of Education, Telecom New Zealand, asnet Technologies, Hewlett-Packard New Zealand, Te Puni Kokiri, National Library of New Zealand, Ministry of Economic Development, CWA New Media, Research New Zealand, Equico, InternetNZ, NZICT and REANNZ.
The 2020 Communications Trust is a registered Charitable Trust established in 1996 to promote digital literacy for all New Zealanders.
(1) British Educational Suppliers Association , ICT Survey of State Schools, September 2009 http://www.besa.org.uk/besa/news/view.jsp?item=1974