Home opinion-and-analysis Open Sauce Little use in education: OECD slams school use of computers

Little use in education: OECD slams school use of computers

A study from the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development has concluded that the use of computers in schools contributes little or nothing to learning, and in fact, could be a factor associated with worse results.

The study used data from the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment and compared information collected over 12 years.

"Ensuring that every child attains a baseline level of proficiency in reading and mathematics will do more to create equal opportunities in a digital world than can be achieved by expanding or subsiding access to high-tech devices and services," it said.

According to the study, in 2012, 96 per cent of students aged 15 in OECD countries had a computer at home but the figure was 72 per cent when it came to use of a desktop, laptop or tablet at school.

It found that only 42 per cent of students in South Korea and 38 per cent of students in Shanghai (China) were using computers in schools and these same students were among the top performers in digital reading and computer-based mathematics tests in the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment.

"By contrast, in countries where it is more common for students to use the internet at school for schoolwork, students' performance in reading declined between 2000 and 2012 on average," the study said.

It pointed out that the findings showed that despite the pervasiveness of information and communication technologies in everyday life, the same were not adopted as widely in formal education.

But where they were used in the classroom, their impact on student performance was mixed, at best. "In fact, PISA results show no appreciable improvements in student achievement in reading, mathematics or science in the countries that had invested heavily in ICT for education."

Governments and also private projects, such as One Laptop per Child — now running as One Education in Australia — have long dismissed any study, even a well-credentialled one, that shows giving computers to children has little use in education.

When such studies come out, those who are earning their living by giving laptops away or else selling them to children in schools, remain silent and keep their heads below water.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.