I'm sorry I'm always talking about my Country, but I guess it'll be funny for you to hear about the relationship between education and computer in one of the richest Italian region in the period from the 80s to nowadays. It's very long, I know, but I promise it'll be fun.
Let's start our journey in 1986.
I started elementary school that year, when I was six. I might be wrong because I was only a child, but nobody seemed to worry that much about my education and the use of a computer. Though, I started to use my father's computer, an old DOS 5" floppy personal computer.
When I was in last year of middle school, 1994, I was fourteen, I typed one paper with my dad's PC and printed it with his nails printer. My dad had the idea, he said it would have looked better... I was considered a geek and a poser from a good part of my classmates. Over 20 kids, just two or three of us typed that paper with a computer. Whatever...
Still, nobody in school was worring about teaching us the use of computers. Or better, someone did once, but I don't really think that one computer lesson in three years is worth to say they worried about our technological skills.
In high school was pretty much the same. We had a computer in the school library but it was used only by the librarian. I don't know if that computer had an Internet connection. I think we also had computer lab, but I can't remember where it was situated in the school, and that's significative of how many times I've been there. Please note that I took a scientific oriented high school.
Hey, it's getting kind of comical!
When I was taking my last year in high school (1999), the school got 6 old computers. I don't know where they found those crappy PCs without any Internet connection, but they decided to place them only in last year classes (we have always the same class, we are always with the same persons, it's the professors that move around the school to give lectures) because, in their opinion, we would have found beneficial to use them for the coming final exams to graduate. Pretty much all of us had better computers at home. Whatever...
The only useful use we could find out from those computer was to play with a crappy old video game in which you were a monkey on the top of a skyscraper and you were supposed to hit another monkey on the top of another skyscraper by throwing at it a banana. We used to play it during class, which always drove professors nuts. That was not exactly the kind of purpose for which they were given to us, I know, but it was fun especially because we used to play instead of following lectures. So, those PCs didn't help my education (we could say instead they tried to mine it) as they were supposed to do. But still we all graduated successfully.
Luckly for me, in my class there were people that were much more geeks than me. They always had the latest computers and stuff so they provided to give me the technological skills that the modern market place requires so badly. One of them became an electrical engineer some days ago (I will come back to engineering department in my university later on).
Then I went to the university. I took Sciencies of Communication (in what is the corrispettive of your College of Letters and Science), one of the most considered department for mass communication studies in Italy. We had a couple of labs plenty of computers which, before coming to Madison, I considered pretty cool especially because (as long as I know) the entire School of Engineering has just around TEN computers opened to students (which are thousands) for free Internet use.
During my studies, they make us took a class about the use of computers. That was the first time that the Italian educational system was worried about giving me the skills for entering in the market place.
Isn't it funny compared to the readings?
So, they taught us how to use Word, Excell and that kind of stuff. It was, let me think, 2001. I was 21.
As long as I know (but still I could be wrong, that's just what I recall), the Italian Government started to worry massively about giving those skills a few years ago. The program was advertised using a slogan as it was a personal promise by the Prime Minister: "Every class school should teach Internet use and English." Yeah, finally!
My little cousin is now in elementary school and she's taking English (as I did, but I did it outside regular classes) but I'm not sure if they are effectively teaching how to use computers in elementary schools yet.
Even though the Italian school system didn't worry to give technological skills to young Italians, I would not say that, technologically speaking, we are awkward. And that's not national pride.
We're just a little bit awkward.
This is to say that if school doesn't teach that stuff, people (yes, if wealthy - we don't have a race divide, just a geographycal one) find a way to learn what will be requested at work.
I'm sorry I wrote so much. There's pretty much my entire life here. But, if it is too long and boring, you could always skip it!