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Wednesday, 13 June 1984
Page: 2911

Senator ELSTOB —Is the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs aware of computer education programs being run in the Northern Territory Aboriginal schools which have increased attendance and achievement levels and have helped overcome many cultural problems? Does the Minister consider that such a successful program could be introduced at other rural schools? Will the Minister advise whether research is being conducted into modern educational equipment and its use at classroom education level?

Senator RYAN —I am very pleased to hear from Senator Elstob of the success of the Federal Government's computer education program in Aboriginal schools in the Northern Territory. I have not yet had a detailed report on that aspect of the program. I am encouraged by the terms in which Senator Elstob's question was put to believe that the program is achieving its objectives in that Territory, as I believe it is throughout Australia. The Federal Government is very well aware of the need to provide educational services to children-be they Aboriginals in remote parts of Australia, city children in our large cities, or children in country towns-that will enable them to understand the new technologies which dominate so many aspects of the work force these days and to enable them to become proficient in them so that in many cases they can enhance their job prospects when they leave school, or their prospects for higher education.

It is because of our commitment to giving all Australian children these opportunities that last year we initiated the national computer education program. That program is being supervised by the Commonwealth Schools Commission and several million dollars have been allocated in the first period of the program to provide computer education in secondary schools throughout Australia. The program does not merely focus on the provision of the hardware, the computer itself, because we realise and the Schools Commission realises that in order to have a successful new education program in this area one needs curriculum materials, and the program will provide that; one needs in-service teacher training, because the teachers need to be instructed in the use of the new technologies and the educational benefits of them; and, of course, one needs parent and community understanding of what is going on. An important element of the program will be the involvement of parents and the community generally in the new developments so that they can be thoroughly understood and implemented properly.

We have set up the program on a three-year basis but it is being monitored by the National Computer Education Co-ordinating Committee. In conclusion, the successes in the Northern Territory to which Senator Elstob referred are being repeated throughout Australia, but we hope to build on those successes and over a three-year period have a comprehensive program which will improve standards in education and improve the opportunities of young people once they go on to the job market.