Addressing digital inclusion for all public school students report


24 June 2020

Today the AEU is publishing a report by independent education researcher Barbara Preston on the lack of digital inclusion for public school students. It includes a thorough analysis of the many interrelated factors that can limit digital inclusion and reveals the persistent long-term gap in digital access, affordability and ability experienced by many public school students. This gap is often accompanied by other factors that inhibit inclusion including low income, remote location, English proficiency, disability and insecure or inadequate housing.

Whilst the change in learning arrangements due to COVID-19 brought into sharp focus the lack of digital inclusion for many students, the report reveals that this is a longstanding issue that has been systematically ignored by the Coalition government for years.

According to the report: “It is important to recognise that the data used in this report identifies the persistent long term gap in access to the necessary resources experienced by many students. Disruption to regular schooling caused by COVID-19 was not the cause of the digital inclusion gap, but served to illuminate the severity of the existing structural problem.”

The report found that approximately 125,000 public school students live in dwellings without internet access and provides a comprehensive national and local overview of the factors that inhibit digital inclusion. Its findings include:

  • Nine percent of students with low family incomes have no internet access at home, compared to only 1% of students with high family incomes without access to the internet at home.
  • Public school students were more 2.5 times as likely as either Catholic or independent school students to have no internet access at home
  • Public school students living in remote areas were much more likely to have no internet access at home – almost a third of the more than 20,000 living in very remote areas had no internet access at home
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students were much more likely to have no internet access at home—21% compared with 5% for all public school students
  • Low family income is associated with many factors that make studying at home more difficult.

The report is a damning indictment of the failure of the Federal Government to ensure that all students have access to the digital tools and resources that they need for their education.

The AEU demands that the Federal Government, as an immediate priority, carry out a thorough digital equity audit to determine the impact on students of a lack of access to the internet and digital resources. This must be followed by a comprehensive plan, developed in consultation with the teaching profession and backed with resources, to permanently address the digital inclusion gap.

The report is available for download here.