School broadband scheme unveiled


Dublin has featured strongly in the first phase of a State-sponsored scheme to provide broadband services to schools.

Some 20 of the 78 schools served are located in the capital, compared to just one in each in most midland counties as well as Sligo and Wicklow.

The scheme is aimed at delivering relatively fast communications speeds - up to 100 megabit fibre and wireless broadband - which are similar to those available to industry.

Under the the Renewed Programme for Government the scheme will extend to all second-level schools in the State over the next two years. The budget for the scheme is €13 million.

Enhanced information and communication technology facilities, including more than 1,500 wireless digital projectors and 2000 laptops, have also been distributed.

The Department of Communications said schools chosen for the first phase had been selected on the basis of a range of criteria including an adequate demographic mix, "to ensure broad social inclusion". Ireland is one the first countries in the world to deliver such programmes on a national level.

Speaking as he demonstrated the technology - by taking a virtual tour of the Louvre in Paris - Minister for Communications Eamon Ryan said children need to be comfortable with the use of such technology. "Broadband of this capacity and quality will allow them to see and learn things in school that my generation could have only dreamed of," he said.

Mr Ryan also said the "chalk and talk" model of classroom experience was being changed. Learning needed to be "multi-sensory and interactive", allowing students to learn in schools in the same way they socialise and learn at home.

The Minister said "digital citizens" were the writers, the inventors and the business people of the future.

He said the jobs of the future would require children to be competent in using computers.

“Broadband of this capacity and quality will allow them to see and learn things in school that my generation could have only dreamed of,” Mr Ryan said. “We are changing the day-to-day classroom experience.”

However, Fine Gael’s communications spokesman Leo Varadkar warned Mr Ryan not to forget about the 3,300 primary schools. He challenged the Minister to at the very least provide all primary schools with broadband speeds of 10MB per second or faster before the end of 2011.

“Children spend eight years in primary school and start using information technology for the first time during these years,” Mr Varadkar said. “Our children should not have to wait until they are in their teens before they have access to high-speed internet in their schools.”

Additional reporting PA