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Mr Speaker, we are mindful of rapid advancements in information technology and the need for students and teachers to be competent users. The Government is putting considerable effort into improving access to information technology for students. Information technology is now a major part of everyday life in the community, the home and the business world. Activities like banking, using libraries, paying bills, home entertainment, and using a video recorder or computer require skills and technology in a way that was not required when some of us were at school. Using technology is one of the basic competencies required for successful participation in work and in society now and in the future. I am pleased to announce that this Government is currently negotiating to introduce a scheme that will allow schools to obtain ex-government computers at greatly reduced costs. These machines will be no more than two to three years old. I hope that we can have these arrangements in place within a month or so. This program will have considerable impact on improving access to computers by students.
I recently launched a program to provide low-cost access to the Internet, the information highway, for all schools. The Internet enables students to access a wide range of up-to-date information and to communicate with experts across the world. It is an exciting way of obtaining information. I even did a little bit of Internet surfing, as it is called, myself. The package that I launched included arrangements for access, training for teachers, and a policy to ensure that access to the Internet is strictly supervised. The Government believes that it is important to assist teachers to develop their skills in using information technology. Small grants are being given to IT district networks to facilitate professional development for teachers at the school level. A detailed system plan coordinating the use of information technology in schools is being developed. This plan will provide benchmarks for schools to develop their unique approaches to the use of information technology. I know that a number of schools are involved in exciting projects in information technology. We will encourage schools to be innovative in the use of information technology and to share their knowledge and experience with other schools.
Mr Speaker, the Government will support and strengthen the very good work being done in our schools. As the Chief Minister stated in this place last week, the Government has a commitment to maintain funding for government schooling in real terms over the next three years. In view of the very difficult financial outlook that the Government has inherited, this commitment reflects the importance that this Government attaches to government schooling. Let us all work together to provide the best possible education for all our students in our schools.
In summary, Mr Speaker, the strategies and directions of this Government in relation to self-managing schools, monitoring individual student progress, particularly literacy and numeracy, physical education and sport, and information technology will position our schools to maintain their leading edge into the next millennium. These initiatives provide firm direction on the Government's intentions for public schooling and the cooperation between schools and the community. Mr Speaker, I table the statement. I move:
That the Assembly takes note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Ms McRae) adjourned.