Parents being forced to fork out €500 for school iPads
Cheaper devices not given as option
PARENTS are paying more than they should for their children's ebook education because Irish schools are insisting on over-priced iPads, according to experts.
The president of the National Parents Council Post Primary, which represents 730 post-primary schools, said that Irish parents were not being given a choice between tablet devices that deliver the same educational ebooks.
"Schools are specifying iPads, which cost up to €500 before (you buy) ebooks," said Don Myers, president of the NPCPP. "I'm aware of other companies offering ebook solutions on Android devices for just €200."
As pupils continue their return to classrooms today, more than 20,000 students in over 100 of the country's 730 secondary schools are being assigned tablet devices for digital learning.
According to publishers and regional administrators, the vast majority opt for iPads over rival tablets.
"A lot of the solutions being offered to parents come in around the €700 mark," said John Heeney, ICT project manager with Louth VEC, which oversees a number of secondary schools in Louth and Meath.
Mr Heeney said that of five designated Louth VEC schools using tablets, three use Apple iPads and two use Android tablets.
"We were definite that it wasn't just going to be iPad that we recommended," he said.
"A lot of the iPad solutions being offered to parents come in around the €750 mark. That is a huge amount of money.
"We've been able to deliver Android tablets at a more competitive price. We hope to be able to deliver tablets at around €200 to €250."
Mr Heeney said that there was some confusion among school teachers regarding viable alternatives to the iPad.
"Apple is not the only answer, not even close," he said. "Apple would make you think it's the only option and they're brilliant at marketing.
"But for an iPad you're paying an awful lot for potential things you might not be using. You could just as effectively be using a cheaper Android."
Mr Myers said the issue was starting to be debated among schools and parents, who were asking whether they were getting value for money.
"A lot of people don't understand it," he said. "Without a doubt, the iPad is a good device and it was first to market. But the price is wrong for education.
"I'm aware of some companies out there who are specialising in getting devices into schools for €200. Compare that to the iPad's cost."
Mr Myers said that parents should have more choice about what kind of tablet device secondary school students use for school work.
"The school should not have the authority to dictate the device that parents get," he said.
"If the app or the book is produced by various publishers for different platforms, it should make no difference which device they get."
At present, Irish school publishers offer texts and materials for iPad, Android and Microsoft Windows devices. Some Irish texts have small enhancements for iPad versions.
A marketing executive for Ireland's biggest school ebook company, EdCo Digital, said that iPad editions of school books allowed students to annotate and highlight texts.
Alan Wright said that alternative Android versions of the same school ebooks would allow the same functionality in an upcoming update.
"There is a slight difference, although going forward, there will be a less of a difference," said Mr Wright.
"As to so many schools specifying iPads, I don't really know why. I would have expected there to be more Android tablets recommended with the availability of more devices."
But some teachers think that the answer may lie in familiarity.
"I think the answer is that they're so famous," said Fintan O'Mahony, an executive board member of the Association of Secondary School Teachers of Ireland and a working teacher in Carrick On Suir.
"It's just the easy option. The perception is that although they're expensive, it's the safe option because they're ubiquitous."