Britain Goes Top of the Class for High Technology; EDUCATION

Article excerpt

Byline: ALISON BRACE

BRITAIN is leading the world in using computers in schools and colleges.

New research shows British pupils have more access to information technology than those in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.

There is one computer for every 17 pupils in primary schools and one for every eight in secondaries. The growth is largely due to more than [pounds sterling]200 million of Government investment in the past 10 years.

Information technology is an important part of the National Curriculum, and all pupils are expected to use skills such as word-processing and data-handling. As a result, CD-ROM drives and portable computers are as much part of school life as pencil and paper were 10 years ago.

It is not just in the classroom that there has been a shift in information handling. Head teachers, now running their own multi-million-pound budgets, are using specially designed software to help them balance the books more effectively.

About 95% of the education market is divided between two leading computer companies, Acorn and Research Machines, which specialise in tailoring technology to the needs of schools and colleges.

Nick Jepson, Research Machines' secondary marketing manager, says: `Teachers don't have the time to have machines down or off-line, so we provide the most reliable PCs we can and give a support service.'

Schools have become such big technology customers that Research Machines alone had a turnover of more than [pounds sterling]80 million last year.

Experts predict that every secondary school will have some form of Internet connection by the end of the year. Research Machines' Internet for Learning and BT's CampusWorld already have thousands of subscribers.

Some schools are even exploring video-conferencing in language lessons, allowing them to link with pupils in France and Germany.

This futuristic view of schooling in the 21st Century is being embraced by both main political parties, which say they want all schools to be linked to the information superhighway by the turn of the century. …