In the run-up to Labor’s landslide election win in 2007, Labor leader Kevin Rudd made an election commitment to give a lap top to every student in years 9-12 — whether from a private or public school. Did it happen?
The specific promise was absent from Labor’s 2007 national platform, but it was acted upon. The plan began to take shape in 2009 when the states and territories agreed to the Digital Education Revolution (DER) national partnership. Last Sunday, the $2.1 billion of federal funding afforded to the plan came to an end; as of July 1 schools will be expected to make their own investments to extend and maintain the digital resources they have.
So did every student get a laptop from the government? The short answer is yes.
A 2012 independent review of the DER found education authorities “have met their target of providing 1:1 device access ratios for all students in years 9–12, in line with the timeline of Term 1 2012 set out by the Australian Government”.
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But it took time. The Courier-Mail reported only 150,000 of the nearly 1 million computers promised had been rolled out by October of 2010. The speed of the computers themselves was another hiccup; the laptops were called “glorified typewriters” by some, and students turned to the media to vent their frustration.
The independent review of the program had its own criticisms, including teachers weren’t adequately trained in how to use the computers and that more engagement with parents was required.
However, it still labelled the program “a major success” and credited it with generating a “catalytic positive impact across Australian schools”. The education revolution, at least in terms of laptops, was a success.