House debates

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Questions without Notice


2:25 pm

Photo of Stephen JonesStephen Jones (Throsby, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth. Will the minister outline to the House the benefits that the National Broadband Network and digitally connected classrooms will bring to schools across Australia?

2:26 pm

Photo of Peter GarrettPeter Garrett (Kingsford Smith, Australian Labor Party, Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Throsby for his question. As many people listening will know, the classrooms of today are much different to the classrooms of the past, particularly for students who are online, who have handheld devices and who are clearly learning in places other than sometimes in the schoolroom. We understand that students need to be educated in the digital age and that is why the National Plan for School Improvement, coupled with high-speed broadband, can resource classrooms for learning in the 21st century.

Think about the opportunities to connect with classrooms in Asia to deepen cultural understanding of students. Think about teachers accessing high-quality resources under the national curriculum, the Australian curriculum, one of the world's first ever to be delivered online. Think about students in regional and remote Australia, the vast distances no impediment to them learning, for example, through high-quality video interaction with other schools. Or think about students researching something like the personal journeys of early European settlers. They can go onto the National Library or the State Library of New South Wales, working in their NBN connected homes, and access high-definition primary resources, like Joseph Banks's diary, and debate with peers in a live-stream video environment. All of these things are important, rich, learning environments and opportunities for young students in Australia.

I can see that stakeholders understand this. The principal of Willunga High School, already connected to the NBN, I should say, said:

The NBN has facilitated a revolutionary change in the delivery of content and co-contribution of learning input. Students who used to hand in C-grade work are now producing A-grade work.

That is what digital learning opportunities are all about. But the fact is that not all schools are on fibre and too many schools, particularly in regional Australia, are on slow download speeds. I saw the 2011 School Broadband Connectivity Survey, noting that around 40 per cent of schools had access to four megabits per second or less of download speeds. So, state education systems have to make the necessary investments in their broadband services and be ready to work with NBN Co. to provide improvements.

Let us look at the choice in digital learning between the government and those opposite. After about 11 years in government we had around 3,000 flagpoles. We delivered support for nearly 3,000 libraries. We have the member for Sturt wrapping himself in the Union Jack and wanting to rewrite the history curriculum. Importantly, we have the coalition locked into a broken funding model, with less resources—some $16 billion going to schools over the next six years. For us, there is the national curriculum, the online additional resources for teachers, the National Plan for School Improvement and the NBN to deliver the best possible education to Australian students. (Time expired)