Government will invest in "universal access to the network and equipment" for all students

Government will invest in "universal access to the network and equipment" for all students

The idea had been touched upon during the conference at the end of the Council of Ministers, in which Antnio Costa explained the way schools will operate in the third period, conditioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, but was now explained in an interview with Agência Lusa.

"We assume a very clear objective: we will start the next academic year by ensuring universal access to the network and equipment for all students in primary and secondary education," explained Antnio Costa. When asked if each student will have a computer, resuming the program developed by the governments of Jos Scrates under the e-school and e-school program, better known for the Magalhes program, he replied that "much more than that".

The e-school and e-school program provided for the assignment of a laptop computer to each student and also support for broadband internet connection. But the Prime Minister wants more now.

"much more than having a computer or a tablet. having this and having guaranteed access to the network on an equal basis throughout the national territory and in all family contexts, as well as the appropriate pedagogical tools to be able to work fully under any circumstances with these digital tools ", says in the interview, reproduced by SIC Notcias.

And for that very reason he states that it is not a Magalhes 2 program but "to be generous with our Spanish neighbors we can even say that a program [Juan Sebastin] is Elcano, because it completes the journey started".

Large investment at the beginning of the next school year

Antnio Costa recognizes that this is a major investment, but considers it "essential and a measure to prevent the risk of a pandemic". Even because this situation demonstrated that it is necessary to "guarantee the need that, whatever happens from the sanitary point of view during the next academic year, there will be no disruption situations, because there was another side of the coin that this crisis demonstrated".

The Prime Minister highlights the schools' ability to adapt to a new situation, which was extraordinary. "In fact, the need has watered down the device and in two weeks more progress has been made in digital literacy than surely it would have advanced in many years of a We have to take advantage of this momentum to fulfill what was one of the great goals of the Government's program: Accelerating the transition to the digital society ", he defends.

In 2007, when the Government of Scrates started the e-escola program, the first computers were destined for students of vocational education and New Opportunities, and the initiative was supported by the communications operators within the scope of the counterparts provided for in the licenses of the 3G mobile network. Students paid a maximum of 150 euros to access the laptop, depending on the family's income scale, and had a discount of 5 euros on the monthly broadband fee, but in fact the market cost of the equipment was around 700 euros.

In 2008, the program was extended to 11 and 12 years old, and then progressively to other levels of education, and in the same year the e-school program was announced for first cycle students, with a computer developed in Portugal by JP S Couto , Magalhes, which would later be exported to several countries.

At the time, the objective was to distribute 500 thousand laptops to students in the first cycle who can access the equipment at zero cost, if they belong to families in the first school support scale, with those in the second scale only paying twenty euros and the remaining 50 euros.

Inequalities that should prevent everyone from accessing education

Schools have been surveying students' resources, with different strategies between different groups, but in many cases they go through surveys carried out by class directors with students. And there are reports of many weaknesses, not least because in many cases there is only one computer at home, which has to be shared by the whole family, including parents at telework and children at different educational levels.

Antnio Costa also recognizes these asymmetries. "Inequalities are much more persistent than what is often thought and, when they are diluted in the same classroom, they are accentuated when each goes to their homes. Either because of insufficient communication infrastructure, or because of lack of equipment, or because of different housing, or even because of different family contexts, these inequalities become more visible ", he says.

This is one of the reasons why the Government has also opted for classes via television, cable, satellite and DTT, a more universal means of getting content to students, but one that lacks interactivity. For this very reason, Antnio Costa defended, still at the press conference of the Council of Ministers, that the two means are complementary.

Even in schools, where equipment was reinforced through the Technological Education Plan, the number of students using computers in recent years is the highest in the past decade.

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