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Digital divide between home and school

Most Swiss schools are now on the web

(Keystone)

More and more Swiss children have access to a computer at school but home use is still much higher than in the classroom.

Latest statistics show that more than 80 per cent of pupils have a computer at their disposal.

However, only 19 per cent say they regularly use a computer during the week at school while 70 per cent of 12- to 16-year-olds are regular home users.

Reasons for the relatively infrequent use in the classroom include lack of fully qualified staff, limited child-friendly software and little back-up in the form of help desks for teachers.

Wired up

"The desire to get schools wired up is huge," said Marie-Claire Tabin, president of the teachers' union in French-speaking Switzerland. "But there hasn't always been a lot of thought on how to use information technology in the classroom."

According to the federal office for statistics, 59,000 computers were available in schools at the end of 2001. That works out at an average of one and a half computers per class.

"Strictly speaking, the number of computers is not sufficient to say that a school is really wired up," Tabin told swissinfo. "That would require at least one computer for every eight pupils."

Teacher training and software, which meets the educational needs of children, also need to be considered, she added.

Traditional methods

Some of these issues are now being tackled said Francis Moret from the Swiss centre for information technology.

He said it was important that computing was integrated into the timetable and that pupils didn't just learn to use the new technology but rather used it to learn.

Moret also pointed out that computers were an addition to traditional teaching methods.

"It's not worth using a computer if it doesn't do more than blackboard and chalk," he told swissinfo.

The future

In Switzerland, 93 per cent of children at secondary school and 53 per cent at primary school have Internet access.

Switzerland is spending some SFr100 million over the next four years in connection with the Schools on the Web programme

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

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

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