Time for action on Digital Learning Hub

Education and training Pillar

ANOTHER school term has quickly passed with the learning of next generation G21 region leaders potentially compromised by paucity of broadband internet coverage.

Another term with classes locked in virtual last century digital times, hemmed by lack of fast and reliable online access.

Another term waiting for the agonisingly slow and patchy rollout of the National Broadband Network. Another term with a solution for Geelong region schools within view but frustratingly just out of reach.

Geelong and adjoining municipalities need just $4.7 million from the State Government to bring critical world-class high-speed internet access to each of their government and private schools via a customised Geelong Secondary Schools and Community Digital Learning Hub.

That the funding has not yet been forthcoming is more than an impediment to education.

It is a deterrent to investment and growth and an affront to the region’s smart agenda evolution, but with the May State Budget approaching the time is now to raise collective voice.

The Learning Hub plan is partnered by all secondary schools in Geelong, Colac and Surf Coast municipalities, along with Deakin University, The Gordon, Geelong Regional Library Corporation and the City of Greater Geelong.

It proposes using the publicly owned Australian Academic and Research Network (AARNet) to deliver one gigabit per second (Gbs) internet access and learning platforms to each school via either fibre optic cable or microwave connection.

Such ample coverage would have far-reaching impact in unlocking so much learning potential.

The Barwon Region Partnership assembly has emphatically endorsed the Hub concept, and G21-Geelong Region Alliance stridently advocates it as a priority project.

Project champion John Mullins of Geelong Secondary Schools and Community Digital Learning Hub attests the need is as critical as ever, with some schools forced to far exceed their departmental download allowances to be able to teach. Increasingly pressured, they are also using domestic internet providers to eke more bandwidth.

“They just can’t wait,” Mr Mullins says.

They can’t keep waiting for national broadband. They can’t keep waiting on the State Government to step up and fund the Hub.

G21 region has more than 40,000 secondary and primary and 27,000 tertiary students, but also uncomfortable truths with school retention and year 12 completion rates lagging well below state averages.

The region’s mission to broaden educational achievement has been urgent for several years and gains more urgency as we fall further behind in providing our students with the right digital tools.

Having a lesson grind to a halt because the class down the corridor is choking the school’s internet capacity simply is not good enough in 2017. Rapid regional growth and demand only magnifies problems.

The G21 region has fulfilled the ideal of bringing the Victorian Government the solution to plugging this black hole. That solution is simple, cost-effective and comes reinforced with proof of concept.

Some local public and private schools already pay for their own access to AARNet. They and their students have not looked back.

The time is now to make this an opportunity for all.

With the May Budget coming into focus, Premier Daniel Andrews and Education Minister James Merlino – both well briefed on the Hub – need to ensure this one-off investment is made for tens of thousands of young futures.

Make it a pilot project for the state, make its rollout and impact the subject of a Deakin University research project.

The State Government, in its quest to make Victoria the ‘Education State’ must not allow students in the G21 region to remain left behind.

Elaine Carbines
CEO, G21 - Geelong Region Alliance

Note: The Geelong Secondary Schools & Community Digital Learning Hub is a G21 Priority Project.  For more information click here.


You can help

Contact your local MP, the Premier and key Cabinet ministers, to demand they fund the Hub in the May Budget:

Premier Daniel Andrews: daniel.andrews@parliament.vic.gov.au

Treasurer Tim Pallas: tim.pallas@parliament.vic.gov.au

Education Minister James Merlino: james.merlino@parliament.vic.gov.au

Bellarine MLA Lisa Neville: lisa.neville@parliament.vic.gov.au

Geelong MLA Chris Couzens: christine.couzens@parliament.vic.gov.au

Lara MLA John Eren: john.eren@parliament.vic.gov.au

Western Victoria MLC Jaala Pulford: jaala.pulford@parliament.vic.gov.au

Western Victoria MLC Gayle Tierney: gayle.tierney@parliament.vic.gov.au