Ireland 'bottom of class' for technology
IRELAND is close to the bottom of the world league when it comes to technology in the classroom.
One in three Irish 15 year olds hasn't used a computer in school, twice the average in the rest of the developed world, according to a 2006 survey.
Another study in the same year put Ireland 19th out of 25 European countries on the use of technology in the classroom.
And nothing has changed since then.
The 2007 National Development Plan envisaged a €252m investment in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in schools in the period to 2013.
The proposed investment was the subject of no less than 17 statements from former education minister Mary Hanafin.
A strategy group was set up to advise on spending priorities, and it reported that an "expansive and strategic investment in ICT in education is an investment in all our futures, and must now become a reality for Ireland".
But darkening economic clouds cast a shadow over the plan. Soon after his appointment in May 2008, Education Minister Batt O'Keeffe was forced to admit that "decisions on the timing and amount of expenditure in this area this year must be made in the overall context of the current budgetary situation".
While there has been limited sponsorship from industry and some ICT support for disadvantaged schools from government agencies, most others have relied on parent donations, cake sales, raffles, golf classics and supermarket tokens for even the most basic ICT equipment.
The delay in rolling out a national scheme is worrying educationalists, who say Irish pupils are being left behind in the digital revolution.
A recent report on ICT in schools warned that years of under-investment meant that Ireland has been "leapfrogged" by other countries, and at a time of fierce global competition for hi-tech jobs.
Last week, Mr O'Keeffe finally signalled that money for computers in schools may be on the way at the end of this year -- but only at the expense of the school building programme.