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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 8 Hansard (22 August) . . Page.. 2449..


MR GENTLEMAN: My question is to the minister for education. Following the government's record investment in public education in this year's budget, can you please outline for the Assembly how this funding will be used?

MR BARR: I thank Mr Gentleman for his question and his strong interest in public education in the Brindabella electorate. Education is one of the most important foundations of our community. Citizens with the skills and knowledge to meet the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century will be integral to our city's prosperity and success. We have a narrow economic base, and our educated population is the key to our future. Education is the building block on which all other economic development is based.

We must, therefore, strive to create an education system that equips our students with a range of skills. There can be no one-size-fits-all model seeking to promote uniform outcomes. The ACT's education system should provide comprehensive pathways for all students, from preschool through to vocational education and from preschool through to PhDs.

The gap between public and private education in the ACT has widened too far. As the Chief Minister indicated, almost half of Canberra's parents now choose to send their children to private schools. Without reform, public education in the ACT will become the choice for a minority of students within a decade. We face the risk of it becoming nothing more than a safety net for those who cannot afford private education.

We have a system that was built in the 1970s. Like the buildings, it needs renewal and reform in order to meet the needs of students in the 21st century. We are faced with a stark choice: to remain stagnant and let our system decline further or strive to provide a better system for current students and for future generations.

The Stanhope government, through this budget, has seized the opportunity to embark on major reform. We believe that scarce resources should be directed on the basis of educational need, not on the basis of geography alone. We believe that every child in the ACT should have access to quality learning environments and that every student should emerge from our public education system with the skills and knowledge to achieve their potential.

That is why the Stanhope government is making the largest investment in our public schools in the history of ACT self-government. This investment includes a $20 million outlay on information technology in our schools under the government's smart schools, smart students budget initiative. The ACT will lead the nation in the use of IT in teaching and learning. Renewal of our school IT infrastructure will ensure that students can enjoy all the opportunities that state-of-the-art access to the internet and cutting-edge technology can provide.

A diverse range of projects are currently under discussion, all of which will be delivered as part of this funding injection. Let me give you an indication of some of the outstanding projects under consideration: a major upgrade of bandwidth to all schools;

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