State and integrated schools will be given Microsoft software from next year, thanks to a deal between the Education Ministry and Microsoft revealed by Education Minister Trevor Mallard yesterday.
Under the two-year, $10 million deal, schools will get several Microsoft programs, including Office Professional, the Works package (which includes Word and Excel), FrontPage and the Encarta encyclopedia suite as well as Windows upgrades. Individual schools will not have to pay for the software.
The deal is to be carried out via the Multi Serve Education Trust, which provides administration, professional and IT services to schools and was founded at the time of the Tomorrow’s Schools reforms in 1989.
“Currently, schools have a variety of software arrangements, which have generally been negotiated school by school,” Mallard says.
“Under the new arrangement with Microsoft, all schools will have their Microsoft software licensed under the one agreement – that’s an estimated 70,000 personal computers covered.”
What this means for schools using non-Microsoft software, such as open source products like Linux, is unclear, but Mallard says that while schools will still be able to “ultimately make their own decisions regarding the provision of ICT [information communication technology],” nonetheless “the government’s bulk buying power puts us in a position to get a good deal for schools.”
The deal extends to making the Microsoft product available to teachers on their home PCs and Apple Mac computers are also covered.
“The deal is for 2002 and 2003 and includes all upgrades and new editions over that period,” Mallard says.
“The cost savings for some schools will be considerable – as an indication, the three key pieces of software in this package would cost more than $800 off the shelf but the price negotiated is $65 per computer.”
Mallard cites administrative streamlining between schools as another advantage of having all or most schools running Microsoft program.
He announced two other ICT measures at the Compaq Education Conference in Auckland yesterday, one relating to professional development for principals and the other a helpdesk for school computer networks.
“Many of you have told me we need to do more around prinicipals’ professional development,” Mallard told delegates at the conference, which began on Monday and finishes today.
The Education Ministry’s response, Mallard said, was to develop the electronic network for principals, under which they would get a laptop and be able to log in to an online discussion forum on issues relating to the role of principals.
“This will enable principals to plug into new information and communication technology skills and develop ICT leadership skills.”
From next year, 600 laptops will be made available for the project.
Regarding the helpdesk, Mallard said technical support for schools using computers in the classroom – which is four of every five in the country – was another issue the ministry had been asked to address, and a helpdesk is the response.
“We have come back with funding for an ICT helpdesk for schools which will start operating in January.”