Thursday, January 10, 2008

UK Paves Way for Education; US Latinos Lag Behind

Today's post is written by Nicole Matos, a student of Bryn Mawr College and an intern at Hispanic CREO. She can be contacted by e-mail at

UK school minister Jim Knight announced plans to require that every secondary school student, almost 6 million children, to have Internet access in their homes, according to Friday's article from the Guardian. The government will work with major IT corporations, such as Virgin and Microsoft, to make such services more affordable and schools will receive 100 million pounds to guarantee access for disadvantaged families. The major motivation out of this is to narrow the achievement gap between “pupils from the richest and poorest families”. This gap widened in the UK by 10% last year.

The initiative will help narrow the achievement gap in two ways. Firstly, it will level the playing field amongst students. At this time, more than one million UK children do not have access to a computer. Lacking the ability to do Internet research and other computer work at home, these students are at a great disadvantage when competing with their more technologically privileged peers. For these children, most learning and schoolwork is limited to school or a library, while more privileged students get to do it at home. Secondly, the initiative will narrow the achievement gap by creating a network for parents to receive “real time reporting,” online updates and communication from teachers and students.

A policy like this instated in the US would be a positive step forward to solving our own gap. A recent report done by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund shows that Latinos, especially Latino children, are lagging far behind their White counterpoints when it comes to having computer and Internet access. According to the report, only about 40% of Black and Latino children have Internet access, while 77.4% of White children do. Even at a higher income levels, Latinos still lag behind and Spanish speaking Latinos are not to “have strikingly low rates” of computer ownership and Internet access.

Technologically disadvantaged students suffer a vicious cycle where their lack of computer ownership and Internet access affects their educational success which, in turn, affects their future career success. A policy like this would be an exciting new way to get Latino children a better chance at academic success and would be a first step to getting Latinos on the right path to computer literacy.

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