Schools ready for online admin: survey

Most schools in New Zealand are equipped to perform administrative tasks online and transmit administration data via the internet, according to a Ministry of Education survey.

Most schools in New Zealand are equipped to perform administrative tasks online and transmit administration data via the internet, according to a Ministry of Education survey.

The survey of more than 2000 primary, secondary and composite schools, carried out by the ministry earlier this year, was done to see how prepared they are to meet the government’s stated intention of having most public-sector functions carried out over the web by 2004.

The survey involved contacting 2722 schools, 96% of which responded by the required date of July 1.

Nearly all schools use at least one computer for administration, with just 1.5% of primary schools, 0.6% of secondary schools and 3.4% of composite schools not using one. Of those that didn’t, nearly all were planning a purchase in the next six months.

The hardware question revealed 82.7% of primary, 93.1% of secondary and 92.1% of composite schools ran PCs/IBM compatibles, with the remainder operating Apple Macs and just one primary school bucking the duopoly by using an Acorn 3020.

Asked how old their sole or “best” admin computer was, 71% of high schools, 60% of composite schools and 53% of primary schools said less than two years.

The vast majority of school admin computers had CD-ROM drives, with just 3.2% of primary, 7.9% of secondary and 1.8% of composite schools saying they didn’t have one.

The vast majority use a variety of Windows as their operating system. Mac OS: primary 9%, secondary 5.3%, composite 4.4%. Windows 3, 3.1 and 3.11: primary 0.5%, secondary none, composite 0.5%. Windows 95: primary 18.5%, secondary 13.5%, composite 21.9%. Windows 98: primary 52.4%, secondary 50.9%, composite 43.9%. Windows 2000: primary 14.1%, secondary 18.6%, composite 22.8%. Windows NT: primary 1.1%, secondary 8.8%, composite 5.3%. Windows Me: primary 0.7%, secondary 1.3%, composite 1.8%.

Nine primary schools listed “other”, the systems being “mainly Risc and combinations of Windows”, with no mention of Linux in the ministry’s report.

When it comes to internet access, 90.8% of primary schools, 97.2% of secondary schools and 93% of composite schools have it.

The schools’ bandwidth capacity and types of connections varied, with dial-up via a school’s main phone line being the mode employed by 20.9% of primary, 8.1% of secondary and 20.8% of composites. Dial-up using a separate phone line shared with the fax line was primary 15.2%, secondary 3.2% and composite 19.8%. Dial-up with a dedicated line for internet access: primary 49.3%, secondary 20.7%, composite 27.4%. High-speed dedicated data connection such as ISDN: primary 12.5%, secondary 45.3%, composite 27.4%. Satellite: primary 1.6%, secondary 18.4%, composite 4.7%. Wireless: primary 0.1%, secondary 3.9%, composite none. ADSL: primary 0.2%, secondary 0.3%, composite none.

Internet Explorer was the browser used overwhelmingly, with Netscape Navigator used at 11.2% of primary, 10% of secondary and 6.5% of composite schools, while 1.4% of primary schools, 1% of secondary and 2.8% of composite schools using other browsers.

Schools were required to take an internet access speed test, which involved accessing a specified page and recording the time taken. Most passed the test, primary schools recording a 74.4% success rate, secondary schools 82.8% and composites 70.8%. However, the ministry report notes “caution needs to be taken when interpreting the information,” as some of those filling in the answer form were clearly confused by the question.

With that proviso, those who recorded a connection speed of more than 100Kbit/s were: primary 14.5%, secondary 50% and composite 25.3%.

Most schools were using a student management software system for roll management, with primary schools recording a 68.7% yes rate, secondary schools a 97.8% rate and composite schools a 71.9% rate. More than 90% of all schools had a school email address. The most popular student management system is Musac, used by more than 75% of schools.

The ministry report concludes “many schools are in a good position to move to communication via the internet between themselves and the ministry of education ... others, particularly primary schools, have a way to go before they will be in such a position”.

The report says this may be due to how schools access the internet and bandwidth constraints in some areas.

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