A networking programme has provided teachers and students with the knowledge and skills to incorporate information technology (IT) into the school curriculum. The Cisco Networking Academy is a joint project organised by Cisco Systems and four tertiary institutions. It aims to help teachers and students develop networking skills with a hands- on approach. Teachers who join the academy study networking over four semesters at four regional academies - the Chinese University of Hong Kong, City University, Polytechnic University and the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education. These teachers in turn start a networking academy in their own schools. The academy teaches networking components, network design, router configurations, LAN (Local Area Network) and WAN (Wide Area Network) theories. The self-learning academy is Web-based, enabling teachers and students to monitor their own progress. To enhance their networking experience, participants are given laboratory work, tutorials and assessments. They can finish the whole course - 280 study hours - in one to two years. Upon completion of the course, they can sit for the Cisco Certified Networking Associate Examination. Chung Wai-tung, IT teacher at Pui Ching Middle School, and a team of nine student IT mentors said the course was useful for implementing IT in education. The student mentors are fifth and seventh formers. Mr Chung said most teachers found it difficult to configure networking facilities at the school. 'This programme not only helps to solve common technical problems but also saves time as we do not have to always seek help from the technicians,' he said. 'The free pro gramme benefits both teachers and students. By acquiring profes sional certification, stu dents can move on to IT jobs in the future.' The school selected a group of computer proficient students as IT mentors to help de velop Web sites, curric ula, teaching materials, educational software and multimedia re sources for academic subjects. 'Student mentors play an important role in helping teachers implement IT in the school curriculum. They can help manage computer facilities,' Mr Chung said. In their free time, the student mentors help their lower form schoolmates use IT. Seventh formers Eric Chong Chun-yin and Percy Wu Pui-yin said the use of IT had enriched the curriculum. 'We can share resources on the Internet and search for information to reinforce what we have learned in class. 'When we have problems with our studies, we can discuss them with teachers and classmates on the news groups and get an instant response,' Chun- yin said. The two students, who are planning to further their studies in computer science-related subjects, said acquiring professional qualifications in networking was important for their future careers. 'Most IT jobs require applicants to have networking experience,' Pui-yin said. 'The programme equips us with skills needed for the future.'