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Wellington High School – IT Centre Opening

20 June, 2002

Good afternoon and thank you for inviting me here today to open your new IT block or cyber-station.

It’s a real pleasure for me to be here today because it is in places like the cyber-station where our next generation of scientists, software developers or digital animators will get off to a good start.

There’s been a lot of talk about the knowledge economy but to make it happen we need young people with world-class technical skills to whom the latest technology is second nature.

Wellington High School has long been a leader in providing a more practical type of education. When it first opened in 1886 as a technical college as opposed to an academic high school it was seen as a radical concept. Today it continues to be a leader in embracing new technology and ways of learning. The entire school is networked, there is school-wide internet access and every student has an email address.

I see that more than a quarter of the almost $2 million spent on the IT centre came from the school and its community. I commend the school for its fundraising efforts and sincerely thank everyone who made a donation to the facility. I can assure you it was a good investment.

Information and Communication Technologies now have a central role in education. The internet is a key information resource. Students in all subject areas as well as teachers can benefit from the vast store of online information.

Experience in the use of computers and familiarisation with digital multimedia tools are also critical skills for the citizens of the future. No doubt in their lifetime the nature of these tools will undergo changes and development that we can only guess at now. Nevertheless, the ability to confidently use computers is now an essential element of the ‘core curriculum’ for all students.

Well-equipped schools, with confident staff and students, good computing equipment and high speed internet connectivity are also a valuable community asset. They have the capability of providing access and training facilities to the wider community. Wellington High is a leader in this area - putting its assets to good use and demonstrating that education is not just for the young. With today’s rapid rate of social and technological change continuing education is vitally important.

Recognising all of this the government has put its money where its mouth is and committed tens of millions of dollars to ensuring every school in the country has access to two-way high-speed internet.

The initiative, announced in the budget will see most schools get high-speed internet by 2003 with the most isolated schools being reached by 2004. Two-way high speed internet is necessary because use of the Internet is not just a matter of accessing information from somewhere else. Schools themselves are generators of knowledge and need to be able to upload information quickly.

As well as broadband this year’s budget added several new initiatives as part of the ICT strategy. These are:
- partnership with Australia in a five-year project to develop online curriculum content
- laptops for secondary school teachers – reimbursing up to two-thirds of leasing costs
- funding for 20 more ICT professional development clusters bringing the total to 70 in 2003
- additional funding for the education web site Te Kete Ipurangi

Using the Internet, schools can share their own teaching skills, experienced teachers and knowledge with each other. The pilot broadband link introduced in Waiau College in Tuatapere in Southland is allowing students to study specialist subjects would otherwise require them to leave home – subjects taught by teachers at other schools elsewhere in New Zealand.

Once again I congratulate Wellington High School on its impressive new facility and wish its students, both young people and adults, all the best in their educational endeavours.

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