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Exploiting the Internet is vital, say Lib Dems

Parents should be encouraged to spend time in school with their children learning about educational facilities on the information superhighway, according to the Liberal Democrats.

A draft paper written by Don Foster, the party's education spokesman, and Nigel Jones, responsible for science and technology argues that open access to the superhighway will be vital. Britain is uniquely placed to make the most of the information age, it says, because of the advanced state of the country's software design and broadcasting and electronic communications technology - and the fact that English is the natural language of the Information Superhighway.

This means the education system must be modernised so that every citizen can use the technology.

The paper says: "Government has a duty to ensure that we do not create a new category of poverty - the information have-nots. It is not enough for government, as this Government has done, to let market forces dictate how the information superhighway develops. A hands-on approach is necessary for this, the most important development since the invention of the pencil."

Mr Foster, who stressed that the document was in the earliest stages of development, said the other parties had made clear that schools would get the computer equipment and cable links to the superhighway. What was important was ensuring that they were able to make best use of the technology.

"Teachers need to be trained to get the full benefit. We've got to look at the next step beyond providing the equipment. It's absolutely critical that we get that training and the support systems are in place," he said.

Ensuring that children whose parents could not afford a home computer did not become information have-nots would depend on links being formed between schools and local employers. The paper suggests that companies should be involved in schools to ensure that children learned the necessary skills of work.

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