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Laptops for All

Article Source Economist

For the past year the pupils of Escuela 95, in a poor neighbourhood of Montevideo, have had a new learning tool. Each has been issued with a laptop computer. This has been of particular help to the 30 or so children with severe learning difficulties, says Elias Portugal, a special-needs teacher at the school. Before, he struggled to give them individual attention. Now, the laptops are helping them with basic language skills. “The machines capture the kids’ attention. They can type a word and the computer pronounces it,” he says.

Nearly all of Uruguay’s 380,000 primary-school pupils have now received a simple and cheap XO laptop, a model developed by One Laptop Per Child, an NGO based in Massachusetts. The government hopes this will help poorer and disadvantaged children do better in school while also improving the overall standard of education. These ambitions will be tested for the first time later this month when every Uruguayan seven-year-old will take online exams in a range of academic subjects. The rest of the world should be intrigued: the first country in Latin America to provide free, compulsory schooling will become the first, globally, to find out whether furnishing a whole generation with laptops is a worthwhile investment. (Peru, a bigger, poorer and less homogenous country, is trying something similar...)

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