Only two-thirds of EU schools have broadband access

Most member states are sluggish when it comes to broadband internet, a key element for teaching computer literacy and bridging frontiers between pupils from different countries.

Three months before the programme ends, only 67% of schools are connected by broadband, and this figure includes significant variations from one member state to another. 

While more than 90% of schools in Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands, Estonia and Malta enjoy access, less than 35% in Greece, Poland, Cyprus and Lithuania are connected. Two of the three best perfomers – Estonia and Malta – are new member states, while the worst performer by far is Greece. As a comparison, 95% of public schools in the US had a broadband connection by 2003. 

The number of pupils sharing computers also shows wide disparities. In Denmark, the UK and Luxembourg, between 3.8 and 5.5 students share a computer, which stands in comparison with Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal and Greece, where the norm is 19 students. This gives the EU an average of ten, a figure still far above that of the US where the number is four students per computer. (2003 data).

Education, Culture and Multilingualism Commissioner Ján Figel said: "Digital competence is one of the eight key competences proposed by the Commission in a Recommendation last year, underlining the utmost importance of this issue for the modernisation of Europe’s educational and training systems. Following the results of this survey, the Commission urges those countries which are lagging behind to intensify their efforts in the interest of their young generations."

Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding claimed: "Europe is starting to reap the benefits of broadband at schools, where the foundations are laid for a knowledge-based society."

 

Bringing computers and broadband internet access to all schools in Europe and using them for 'virtual twinning' across member states was one of the main objectives of the eLearning programme within the eEurope 2005 Action Plan. The programme covers 2004-2006 - around 25% of its budget - some 9 million euro - was allocated to bring schools online and foster e-twinning. The programme prioritised secondary schools, with a view to extending its activities to other institutions later.

The "Benchmarking Access and Use of ICT in European Schools 2006" study published by the Commission on 29 September 2006 was carried out in spring 2006 in all 25 EU member states, Norway and Iceland and involves two surveys: one involving more than 10,000 head teachers and the other an ICT-usage poll of more than 20,000 teaching staff. 

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