Fusion 2000

8th September 2000 at 01:00

"By 2010 people will use technology, rather than institutions, to access learning" - or will they? That will be the question resounding through the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) in Glasgow at the end of this month, when world-famous gurus such as Seymour Papert and Alan Kay cross the Atlantic to inspire teachers, HMIs and politicians with their visions of the future for lifelong learning.

The timing could not be better. This week Her Majesty's Inspectors publish their first full report on the state of ICT in Scottish schools and their findings and recommendations will be crucial to our children's achievements in education.

Yes, there is magnificent work going on in classrooms and individual subjects around the country, as our feature on pages 4-5 reveals. But these are the examples of good practice that the school inspectors found and although it is too early to quantify the difference in upils' marks, it is patently obvious that computers and the Internet can enthuse children and boost their achievement.

These are the stories that the visionaries and evangelists tell. But what about the thousands of children who attend the other schools, the secondary maths or modern language departments where ICT scarcely features, or the primary classes where children barely learn the most basic computer skills? How do their chances rate? And in a global market where they will compete with the best of Americans, Australians and Europeans, what will their job prospects be? If the Scottish Parliament is serious about the social inclusion policy at the top of its agenda, then those inequalities need to be remedied and fast. With millions of pounds already poured into the National Grid for Learning in Scotland, the conference chairwoman, broadcaster Kirsty Wark can be expected to push for some straight answers.

Gillian Macdonald, Fusion 2000 editorassistant editor TES Scotland

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