Because of the way the scheme was administered in NSW, current Year 12 students who leave public schools this week will take their Lenovo notebook with them. The machines are unlocked from the Department of Education and Training’s communications network, and students are able to transfer ownership of some of the software loaded onto those devices from the Department and to themselves.
The Federal Government’s $2.4 billion Digital Education Revolution was intended to drive a 1:1 computer to student ratio in schools and this was pretty much achieved at the beginning of this year for years 9-12. The heart of the DER was the National Secondary Schools Computer Fund with a $1.4 billion budget for computers for secondary schools, plus a further $807 million earmarked for the costs of implementing the computers.
According to the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations more than 957,000 computers have been installed in more than 2,900 secondary schools across Australia – considerably more than the original target of 786, 000.
“The Government has now provided funding to all education authorities to move schools with students in Years 9 to 12 to a 1:1 ratio,” according to a spokesperson for the Department. The funding agreements with the State and Territory Governments are now winding down and end next June.
NSW and Queensland took the most prescriptive approach to the DER, with computer selection determined at State education department level and imposed on schools. Other States and Territories had a more liberal approach allowing individual schools to select the most appropriate devices (including iPads in some cases) from pools of suppliers including Apple, Lenovo, Dell, Acer, Toshiba, CDM and HP.
The architect of the NSW scheme was Stephen Wilson, formerly chief information officer at the NSW Department of Education and Training and now in charge of computing at Sydney Water. Back in 2010 iTWire asked Mr Wilson about the sustainability of his approach.
At the time he acknowledged further Federal Government support would be needed to sustain the NSW programme long term. “I don’t think the Commonwealth Government can announce a programme if this importance, then say ‘that’s it’,” said Mr Wilson.
But with Federal and State Governments under fierce pressure to fund either some or all of the Gonski report’s proposed reforms, it is unclear what might be left over for future computer investment. Earlier this month the NSW Government announced plans to in fact slash $1.7 billion from education funding.