G21 region schools' internet crisis

Today's Geelong Advertiser (7 June 2019) highlights the grossly inadequate intranet services at one of the Geelong region's secondary schools (see Addy article and editorial reproduced below, or link directly to the Addy's article online here).

Each day students and teachers at many of the region’s schools struggle to access usable speeds from the school internet service.

Without quality internet, students and teachers can’t:

  • Use information sites, e-books or education platforms for teachers like Scootle
  • Stream online educational classes and events
  • Share resources between schools, or
  • Deliver the curriculum electronically

The Education Department is increasingly requiring teachers to use online teaching and assessment (eg NAPLAN) but dosen't provide adequate intranet to do so effectively.

Our students are missing out.

Some parents have resorted to data-loading their children’s phones so the student can Bluetooth to 4G mobile on their computers.

Limited bandwidth and speed means teachers have to ration the use computers.

Many schools have a mere 100mbps (Megabits per second) speed to service the entire school community of hundreds of students and teachers.

That’s equivalent to the top NBN speed provided to households. Yet hundreds of students must fight for that service, as opposed to a handful of users accessing a home service.

The Education Minister has announced that schools will be upgraded to 150mbps.

It’s not nearly enough. That’s hardly an improvement. Our schools need a minimum of 1 Gbps (1 Gigabit per second = 1000 mbps).

G21, with the support of Deakin University, the Geelong Library Corporation and other educational institutions, has for years been proposing an innovative solution whereby schools would be able to access speeds at least 10 times faster than current capability.

The Geelong Secondary Schools and Community (GSSC) Digital Learning Hub and Ecosystem would enable students and teachers in the G21 region to become leaders in a digital age. G21 is so concerned about the issue it has made it a G21 Priority Project.

This ready-made solution is the high-speed, high–capacity network used by Australian universities, like Deakin University, and the CSIRO.

This affordable solution would allow comprehensive digital access to all secondary schools in our region.

One public high school and seven independent schools have decided to pay for this comprehensive digital network themselves. They understand the importance of good intranet for students’ education.

But 20 local secondary schools cannot afford it.

This digital divide in our region is happening when almost one-in-three students in our region is not completing Year 12, compared to about one-in-five in Melbourne.

How do you keep local students at school when they can’t even get online, let alone have the ability use what they learn at our new Geelong Tech School (which does provide high-speed intranet) when they return to their home school classrooms?

Can we afford not to give every student the chance to thrive in our region's innovative digital future?

The state government came to power on a promise to make Victoria ‘The Education State’.

The education Minister and his department must address this issue as a priority.