Lack of internet leaving students behind

Katina Curtis, AAP Senior Political Writer
(Australian Associated Press)


New research prompted by the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the serious digital gap faced by many school students from poorer families.

Internet connection was vital for students learning from home during COVID-19 restrictions.

But new research commissioned by the Australian Education Union finds public school students were 2.5 times more likely than their private schools peers to have no home internet access.

About 125,000 public school students had no internet at home, even through a mobile or gaming device, the report by researcher Barbara Preston found.

Nine times as many students from the nation’s poorest families had no internet access than those from the richest families.

One in eight students in remote areas had no internet at home, as did a third of those living in very remote areas.

Union federal president Correna Haythorpe says this highlights the deep inequality students from disadvantaged backgrounds face.

“This must be a wakeup call for the federal government about the urgent need to close the persistent long-term gap in internet access, affordability of IT hardware and software,” she said on Wednesday.

“In 2020, it is a shameful indictment on the Morrison government that any child does not have access to the internet, the digital resources and support needed to ensure they can achieve their full potential in school.”

The union wants the government to do a “digital equity” audit of what resources and hardware students can access and the impact on those who lack an internet connection.

Research done for the federal education department in April found poorer children were most likely to be impacted by the disruption to regular schooling as states closed schools and required students to learn from home.

Victoria University’s Stephen Lamb said unequal internet access was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the challenges some children faced in doing schooling online, and that virtual learning was less effective than face-to-face.


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