BESA Report Outlines History of Technology in UK Schools

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The British Educational Suppliers Association, commonly known as BESA, recently marked 30 years of technology in education by issuing a report exploring how technology’s role in British schools has grown through a series of governments.

The report discussed the history of ICT involvement in education and the present condition:

”From being seduced by computers at first, the education system has moved to a new, pragmatic understanding of ways in which technology serves education and not the other way round.”

There is no denying that the digital revolution has brought significant changes to the world and especially in education. Governments around the world regard quality schooling as the key to a highly-educated and adaptable population.

Particularly in the UK, computer technology played an essential role in raising education standards. A 30-year strategy which involved politicians, teachers and the technology industry drove BESA to consistent monitor the impact of computers in more than 26,000 state schools.

The BESA team collected essential statistics of how much money these schools were spending on technology back in the 1980s. There were also reports based on the market for educational technology in 1994 and 1997, which covered the independent and state schools. In 1998, BESA launched the annual technology surveys for the first time.

Research consultant Richard Connor oversees the independent research into UK schools and their technology aspect. Combined, all these reports provide help to look back and assess what went well and what mistakes were made.

In the UK education system, all schools and colleges are free to adopt and use technology like they want to. According to BESA’s Dominic Savage, technology brings innovation to education:

“The phrase ‘let a thousand flowers bloom’ has, by and large, been the policy mantra that has worked and it is probably the single most important reason why such a high proportion of UK schools are using ICT effectively. It doesn’t stop mistakes being made, but it is a wonderful driver for innovation and choices that suit an individual school”.

It introduces countless new opportunities as well. Labor launched the New Opportunities Fund in 1999 using National Lottery funding to offer £230 million to be spent on teachers’ ICT training.  The number of computers increased to 851,100 by mid-2000.

It was found that the teachers needed more training as even setting up the high-tech equipment was time-consuming and difficult.

By 2005, teachers even started using class teaching aids like interactive whiteboards. By 2008, access to the internet was given to all pupils and teachers. There were some initial problems with bandwidth, but schools overcame it quickly.

Dominic Savage explained that decisions were taken centrally about what the schools needed, and schemes were devised accordingly.