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Primary Schools and Broadband: The biggest issue in education today?

Following on from a conversation on the wonderful CESI list, I thought I would expand on my thoughts that I posted this evening. A question was raised about broadband speeds in primary schools in Ireland. My understanding is that, currently, outside of any pilots that are going on, that the maximum speed any primary school in Ireland is getting is 7Mb no matter wha tsize the school is. I also understand that a  lot of schools, particularly (but not always),  in rural areas are on speeds of 1Mb.

Creative Commons Some rights reserved (https://www.flickr.com/photos/cell105/142887353/)

The Internet is too slow in Irish primary schools. Creative Commons Some rights reserved (https://www.flickr.com/photos/cell105/142887353/)

I would be of the opinion that school broadband should be as fast or faster than the maximum speed available in any area. I am sad to say that we could not justify using the school broadband service in our new building with 7Mb of broadband. I can currently get speeds of 150Mb from UPC for not too high an investment, though I have chosen to go with Eircom at 24Mb due to possible congestion problems. There is really no reason why schools in my area shouldn’t be getting speeds of over 100Mb, especially when secondary schools in the town are getting these speeds. Furthermore, the infrastructure for even faster broadband is available in the town so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be getting speeds higher than those available from companies like UPC.

With the rollout of of many government services (e.g. POD) relying on internet access, I would dread the think how most schools are going to upload their data to the Esinet system in school. No doubt, principals, will do this work in their homes where the speed of Broadband will be somewhat more reliable. It makes a complete nonsense of trying to computerise the Department of Education’s way of receiving data when perhaps the majority of schools are not getting a fast enough connection to upload information.

There are lots of issues in primary education in Ireland, all of which need to be sorted. We have the second highest class sizes in Europe and the services given to children with special educational needs is disturbingly insulting. However, in my opinion, the single biggest issue in ICT in primary education in Ireland is broadband speed and it’s getting harder to justify the speeds on offer from government. Screenshot 2014-09-28 21.49.32

While I completely understand that these things take time, and I know it is no reflection on the PDST or Heanet who provide the service, it seems nonsensical that one school in a town can have 100Mb of broadband and one next door gets 7Mb, just because the children in these schools are older. Broadband speeds should be the same for a child in 6th class as for a child in 1st year of secondary school. Having said that, the same could be said for capitation grants but that’s a whole other article for another day!

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