A brief note on the proposed government sponsored plan to give all secondary school students cheap, portable, laptop computers. I may only be speaking for myself here, but I really don’t see why my tax dollars should be wasted on such a stupid program. Giving laptops to students, to take home and use at their own will, is nothing but a massive sinkhole for Australian’s taxpayers.
Let’s start with a hypothetical. Let’s assume that every student in the Australian education system is an upstanding student. Let’s assume that they’re going to treat the machine like it’s their most prized possesion. Even if that were the case, there’s no way that these machines are going to stand a year of continual travel, use in our education system. I think it’s a pretty safe assumption that these machine’s are just going to be stored in students backpacks. No padding, no strapping to hold them in place. From memory, backpacks, regards of their contents, weren’t exactly treated like they were carrying precious cargo. They’re thrown around, dropped, trodden on and generally abused. If you’ve got a laptop computer in there, then you’ve got something in there that’s certainly not designed to be treated like that, and going to be ruined inside of a week or two.
Now let’s move onto the other problem this program raises; who is going to fund the support for these machines? It’s not too hard to see these machines needing to be rebuilt once, maybe twice, a year because students have installed programs on them that they shouldn’t, have got some sort of virus, or have for some reason or another seen fit to remove assorted portions of the operating system install directory. It’s all well and good for the government to set a reasonable budget for rolling this program out, but there’s no talk of the ongoing costs of maintaining it. This is not even mentioning infrastructure upgrades to allow WiFi in schools and allow the students access to the school’s internal network. Again, I can only speak for myself, but all of my classrooms didn’t have 25+ powerpoints in them to connect computers up to during class, not to metion ones in the middle of the room, away from walls.
There’s plenty of other things in the education system that could do with the large amount of money that’s been set aside for a program that isn’t well thoughtout and is inevitably going to be poorly implemented. How about funding critical maintenance of buildings in regional schools? How about an increase in wage for teachers? How about new resources for school library’s and classrooms? Giving every student their own laptop computer is going to be nothing but a waste of money. And frankly, it’s money the government doesn’t have to spend.