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Published 20th January 2011, 4:25pm

Advanced Placement (AP) students at the Cayman Islands Further Education Centre (new Year 12 programme) are getting extra help with their exam preparations this school year. They've been selected to participate in an Education Department pilot project, testing the feasibility of one-to-one computing in the education system. Though Cayman students already have a favourable student-to-PC ratio when compared to other jurisdictions, this pilot will give older students - in the midst of college or employment preparations - more time with the technology. In much the same way as an annual text book rental, they'll each be assigned a netbook which they can take home throughout their twelfth year. The PCs must, however, be returned at the end of their studies. Advanced Placement students were selected because they are preparing for US Education Testing Services AP exams this May. The netbook assignments will complement their studies, allowing 24-hour access to a wide range of study resources on the AP Central website. Explaining the project's objectives and benefits, Chief Education Officer Shirley Wahler noted, "This approach closes the digital divide between those students who have PCs at home and those who don't, giving all students equal access to the digital world and its resources. "We want our students to become independent learners, thinkers and researchers, as these skills prepare them for success beyond the secondary level," she continued. "Advanced Placement students are expected to take on a great deal of independent study and research, and netbooks are a cost-effective tool to achieve this." She also mentioned another benefit the pilot provides to the education system: If successful it will reduce costs associated with sourcing, purchasing, shipping and storing expensive texts. Instead, AP students will be able to find and read books and other study materials online at no cost, through sources such as the Project Gutenberg digital library. Precautions have, however, been taken to ensure that students use the technology appropriately. Mrs. Wahler further confirmed that all school networks are equipped with relevant safety features to prevent access to improper websites. Participating students were also required to sign agreements which set out standards and expectations for computer use. Additionally, the new machines will be periodically checked and students who've misused their PCs off campus will immediately lose their privilege. In total, the 20 machines - secured at a reduced cost with the help of Priced Right Managing Director Woody Foster - cost the Education Department just under $8,000. A free on-campus hotspot, donated by LIME, also gives students web access between classes and outside of school hours. Education Minister, the Hon. Rolston Anglin, JP, extended his thanks both to Mr. Foster and Lime for their contributions to the education system. "It's always a good thing when members of the private sector step up and give back to the education system that's moulding our future leaders. "I'm grateful for their generosity and look forward to the continuation of our mutually beneficial relationships." Students who are successful in Advanced Placement exams will earn qualifications that can be used as college credits at any US university. They may also be used like 'A' levels, for entry into British and Caribbean universities. (GIS)