ILS needs another "L", according to critics of the Integrated Learning Systems being evaluated in UK schools by the National Council for Educational Technology (NCET). These programs that identify pupils' strengths and weaknesses and individualise their tasks are "ills" that education can do without, they argue.
The anti-ILS lobby has been alarmed at the Department for Education's grant of Pounds 100,000 to the NCET for a consortium of UK suppliers, Open Integrated Learning Systems (OILS), to help create a UK-based ILS. The consortium members stand to make a killing, say the critics, while major companies like ICL are happy to throw in a cool Pounds 500,000 to get OILS started.
The DFE's contribution is interpreted by the cynics as a green light for UK companies to create an ILS before the pilot has established the system's educational worth. Their anxieties have increased with the news that Philip Lewis, who headed the DFE's schools IT unit, is the consultant for the OILS group.
Now there are rumours of further funding of Pounds 2.8 million for ILS to be announced at the BETTshow in January (although the NCET says it is unaware of any such funding).
Meanwhile, the NCET pilot has come in for some flak in Inside Multimedia, the Private Eye of educational IT. Editor John Barker argues that while the UK maths program from SIR, Global Maths, is still in "beta" (incomplete) form, the other ILS in the pilot, CCC's SuccessMaker (the only one to register learning gains), is too expensive for schools.
NCET, Milburn Hill Road, Science Park, Coventry CV4 7JJ.
Inside Multimedia, Tossa House, Main Road, Smalley, Derby DE7 6EF.