Smile, it’s only a two tier education system

If I was 7 years old today my parents would no doubt have bought me my own laptop, just as around 25 years ago we got our first home computer, the Acorn Electron. I was always the last to be picked for football, but I knew how to code in BASIC and how to pilot a Cobra MKIII into a space station without a docking computer.

These thoughts came to mind as I watched the Dell adverts currently running on TV. Consisting of scenes of middle class school children being given permanent spinal trauma by heavy rucksacks of evil books, they are saved from a lifetime of resembling Quasimodo by replacing their schoolbooks and folders with a Dell laptop, all to the tune of “Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile.”

Now, Dell are obviously not daft when it comes to marketing. I’m certainly not suggesting that they are predicting wholesale the replacement of schoolbooks with ebooks, indeed it’s unlikely that any child in the majority of mainstream schools would have the opportunity to use a laptop in class (or indeed anywhere else in the school before they were happy slapped and their Inspiron hurled from the nearest window to test its durability, or just filled with internet pornography). Dell have clearly decided that with financial security at an all time low and with an imminent V.A.T rise, most consumers will be holding off expensive tech purchases for themselves, but the middle class pushy/ concerned parents market is always strong – something that makers of SUVs have certainly capitalised on in recent years.

I’ve realised that from the age of about 7 I effectively received home tutoring in IT thanks to being able to spend time on my Acorn. As basic as the machine was, I was still ahead of many of my peers in computer literacy, and in many respects still am. The digital divide is still alive and well in this country and, without centralised standards for ICT in schools, computer literacy will be  dependent on family income and postcode lotteries for the forseeable future.