GRANBY - Que. - Ten years ago, Eastern Townships School Board gave its students laptops. The result: dropout rate have been cut in half.

Quebec schools have the highest dropout rate in Canada, and Eastern Townships schools have it particularly tough.

In 1992, schools in the area were ranked near the bottom of the province with a dropout rate of 42 per cent.

That’s when the Eastern Townships School Board decided to put computers in the classrooms.

“It was really important that we do something that was a catalyst; put something in the hands of our teachers that could really help them,” said Chantal Beaulieu, director general of the ETSB.

Ten years later, student test scores have improved dramatically. The dropout rate has reduced by more than half.

Universite de Montreal professor Thierry Karsenti studied why there was such an improvement.

“Usually students who do not get their high school leaving diplomas is because they fail language arts. They do not pass the Secondary 5 exam in English,” said Karsenti.

Karsenti said student writing abilities have improved because technology has made writing more fun and coursework less tedious.

The study also shows an improvement in group work, and gives teachers more creative ways for students to learn.

“We're thinking of how they can show their learning by creating something new and that's completely different -- not only how we started out teaching with the computers, but how we taught before,” said Jody Meacher, a grade 3/4 teacher at Parkview Elementary School in Granby.

The program, however, has faced criticism over cost.

The program comes with a $15-million pricetag over the first three years, and $1 million per year after that for training staff and updating software and hardware.

“It was definitely an investment and not an expense,” said Beaulieu. “That was really worth it.”

Due to budget cuts over the past five years, the school board has been unable to provide a computer for every student in every classroom.

The board is seeking to change that by finding funding through the private sector.