U.K. govt: Technology can revolutionize education

Better online information sources will allow parents to monitor school performance and make more informed decisions about their children's education, says education secretary.

U.K. Education Secretary Ruth Kelly has claimed that online applications will allow parents to become more fully involved with their child's education and help improve teaching standards.

Speaking at the British Education and Training (BETT) Show in London on Wednesday, Kelly praised the role that technology can play in speeding up the government's education reforms. In particular, she said the Internet would allow parents to "influence learning" to a much greater degree than has ever been previously possible.

"ICT can open up our education system and make it much more accessible to parents," Kelly said.

To illustrate her point, Kelly cited new school profiles available online that allow parents to "see what is on offer and how well a school is doing".

The education secretary's comments are particularly pertinent following the publication on Wednesday of a National Audit Office report on failing schools. The report identified more than 1,500 schools as having weaknesses, with 242 schools judged by inspectors as "failing".

One of the factors cited in the report as contributing to the failure of certain schools is a "lack of parental engagement" and "limited support for the school and low aspiration of pupils and parents".

In a wide-ranging speech, Kelly claimed that technology has a large part to play in the government's education reforms. "Technology is vital to our process of reform because it allows us to move forward much more quickly," she said.

Kelly also claimed that the government was working towards ensuring that all schools in the United Kingdom have broadband access, up from the current 85 percent.

Although there may be broad agreement that ensuring better use of technology in schools would be a positive move, there has been some disagreement over who should be providing it.

Becta, the agency which oversees use of IT in education, said on Wednesday it would review the 'value for money' provided by Microsoft's educational licensing programs in the United Kingdom, including the range, scope and cost of academic licensing models available, and whether they meet the needs of U.K. schools and colleges.

BETT is running till 14 January with around 550 exhibitors from across the education and technology sectors. Topics covered in the accompanying seminar program include the role of 3D computer games in learning, use of interactive whiteboards and use of technology for personalize learning.

Silicon.com's Steve Ranger, in London, contributed to this report.