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Intelligent surfing poses a challenge

More than 1,800 schools have fast Internet access in Switzerland Keystone

More than half a million schoolchildren in Switzerland have fast Internet access thanks to a public-private initiative started last year.

Education experts say the challenge now is teaching pupils to make the best use of the web.

Some 40 per cent of Swiss schools – over 1,800- have free broadband access thanks to the Schools on the Net programme.
The plan is to get all of Switzerland’s 5,000 schools fully wired up by the end of 2007.

“Most pupils have learnt to use the software,” Francis Moret, director of the Swiss centre for information technology, told swissinfo.

“Now we have to go a lot further and integrate the computer in the lessons themselves. It’s one of the biggest challenges we face.

“Given the amount of material available on the Internet, we’ve got to develop the critical instinct of young people. They have to appreciate questions of copyright as well as what information to use.”

The view was echoed by canton Bern’s education minister, Mario Annoni, at a press conference in Bern on Monday.

“Don’t just learn how to use Information and Communication Technology (ICT),” he said. “Use ICT to learn.”

Unlimited access

As principal sponsor in the Schools for Net programme, the telecommunications operator, Swisscom, has already provided 1,800 schools with free broadband Internet access.

Once a school is connected to the network, pupils and teachers have unlimited access.

“In 20 years’ time, people who are unable to get to grips with the Internet will be faced with the same problems as those who today are unable to read and write,” said Swisscom chief executive, Jens Alder, in Bern on Monday.

The smallest school to date linked to the Internet on this programme is the primary school in Vogorno, canton Ticino, which has just ten pupils.

The largest school to have benefited from the project is St Gallen Vocational School where 5,300 pupils use the World Wide Web for educational purposes on 335 PCs.

The best equipped school is the Technical School in Porrentruy, canton Jura, which boasts 50 networked PCs for just 45 pupils.

Switzerland is spending some SFr81 million over the next five years in connection with the Schools on the Net programme.

The initiative – part public, part private – is designed to further information technology in schools. It will also even out discrepancies between and within cantons over computer access.

According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Denmark, Finland, Sweden and the United States spend more per capita than Switzerland on getting their schools wired up.

swissinfo, Vincent Landon

More than 1,800 schools have free broadband access to the Internet in Switzerland.
The public-private initiative plans to get all 5,000 Swiss schools fully wired up by 2007.
Switzerland is spending some SFr81 million over the next five years for the project.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR