Uruguay 1, Wales 0

In one way Uruguay is quite similar to Wales. It has a population of 3.4m. But in another way it has not only outstripped us, but the world. It has become the first country to make sure that every child in primary school has a computer.


     Laptop for every pupil in Uruguay - BBC, 16 October 2009

We in Plaid Cymru had similar plans for Wales, so it is a little galling to see a poorer country get the better of us. One of our commitments in the last Assembly election was that every 11 year old should have a laptop. Unfortunately we weren't able to get Labour to agree to that, so it didn't make it into the One Wales Agreement. We got a pilot scheme instead. I don't quite know what a pilot scheme would tell us that we don't already know, because this report demonstrated that it was hugely successful when tried in Scotland, but it's a step in the right direction.

One of the things to note from the story is how inexpensive it was. The cost in Uruguay was only 5% of their education budget. They have 362,000 primary school children, we have about 240,000. In any one school year we have fewer than 40,000 children, so what Plaid proposed was rather more modest and therefore even more affordable. And of course the cost of the computers would be at least partially offset by a reduction in the amount of traditional printed books and other school materials, as much of this would simply be downloaded onto the computers.

I'm not saying that we should necessarily follow the One Laptop per Child model in terms of equipment. I do think it is a very good model, but there are other ways of doing the same thing. The principle is what matters: to make sure that every child benefits from using digital technology.

And yes, lots of children in Wales do have their own computers or access to a computer at home, but the crucial thing is to be sure that every child benefits. Children of poorer parents need to have exactly the same advantages as children of those who are better off, since poverty is still one of the major factors that affect educational achievement.

Well, the same commitment should be in our 2011 manifesto. So if you want Wales to score a late equalizer against Uruguay, you know who to vote for.

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Anonymous said...

oh, that's a surprise, Plaid unable to do someithing because of the can't do attitude of Welsh Labour. Welsh Labour - the party which were in power for 8 years and have pretty well nothing to show for it.

Anonymous said...

As the man quoted by the BBC said,

"Many countries are simply too scared to put it into practice."

Rhodri ap Dyfrig said...

Re: the trial that is taking place.

Will those laptops have Welsh language software and options for Welsh lang interface installed on them?

MH said...

Rhodri, I can't find much information about the pilot scheme other than this announcement last month.

But one of the things in favour of making sure that every child has a laptop is that teaching materials can be made available and downloaded as easily in Welsh as in English. With traditional printed materials it is just as easy to write the text in either language, but economies of scale with print runs and distribution mean that there are fewer materials available in Welsh than in English. It also means there are fewer Wales-orientated materials (for the Curriculum Cymreig) available in English, which is just as big a problem. An electronic revolution of this sort would even the playing field.

The same should be true of the interface for the operating system.

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