In 2007, the Republic of Macedonia launched a revolutionary new program that was supposed to change the way students would learn forever. 17,818 computers, 98,710 LCD monitors, 98,710 keyboards and mice and 80,892 thin clients have been provided for primary and secondary schools so far, making “Computer for Every Child” the biggest investment in education in Macedonia in the past two decades. The aim was to revitalize education and increase the efficiency of educational reforms in the country, by giving students the opportunity to “master the teaching material in an environment and manner that meets the standards of the modern information society.”
In order to compensate for the extremely high costs of providing PCs to every student, the Macedonian government opted for the NComputing X-series which combines regular PCs and inexpensive virtual desktops to enable seven students to use a single computer simultaneously. Apart from having significant cost advantages over individual PCs, NComputing X-series require 90% less electricity to run and greatly reduce maintenance and replacement costs.
In addition, Macedonian government teamed up with Intel© Learning Series to provide free netbooks, loaded with customized, locally relevant math and science applications for primary school teachers and to set up broadband internet access at all primary schools. Intel hailed Macedonia as the global IT leader in education at the last year’s Annual innovation conference in San Francisco and pledged 15 million dollars for electronic equipment, teaching programs, trainings and qualifications for teachers all over the country.
However, despite the initial euphoria over the project, recent reports indicate that the purported education transformation is slow. Numerous problems have been reported regarding implementation of the “Computer for every child” project. Many children, especially in rural areas, are yet to get their promised PCs. There are schools with infrastructure that is outdated and does not support the installation of such modern equipment; other schools do not have proper technical support for training and maintenance. As a result, computers are often locked up in a storage or warehouse until “further notice.” And where computerization has occurred, teachers still struggle to get their old curricula in line with the modern way of teaching.
For many, the money invested could have been better spent. For example, improvements upon basic conditions in schools across the country are sorely needed. Some fear that so many changes in classroom methods, e.g. the introduction of new technologies and textbooks, are actually setting students back, as some of the high school freshmen struggle with basic math or reading.
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