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Ireland ranks poorly for IT in schools and homework – OECD

Posted by Francis O' Toole on September 21, 2015

Secretary-General of the OECD Angel Gurria1
Secretary-General of the OECD Angel Gurria

Ireland is close to the bottom of an international table on the use of computers in schools, as well as for homework, according to a major new report.

Irish 15-year-olds rank 38th out of 42 countries when it comes to using technology, both in school and in classes, for the key subject of maths – and 39th for homework.

In 2012, 96pc of 15-year-old students in the developed world reported having a computer at home, but only 72pc reported using one at school. In Ireland, the figure is below 64pc.

While an average of 32pc of students internationally reported using of computers in maths lessons, in Ireland it was below 18pc.

Ireland shares the lower rungs on the computer use league table with countries like Finland and Korea that have high-performing education systems.

However, there is no comfort to be drawn from that because unlike Ireland, students in these countries do well in maths by international standards, either with or without computers.

The study was carried out in 2012, when many of the Irish students surveyed had not studied the Projects Maths syllabus, which makes greater use of technology for teaching and learning maths, so the picture may have changed since then.

On the other hand, Irish 15-year-olds are among the best in the world when it comes to navigating the web, according to the ‘Students, Computers and Learning Making a Connection’ report from the OECD.

They rate among the top six globally – the others are Singapore, Australia, Korea, Canada and the United States – when it comes to carefully selecting links to follow before clicking on them.

While Irish teenagers rank highly when it comes to reading, both in print and online, a mastery of web browsing is attributed to an additional strength in assessing pages or screens of text and filtering relevant and trustworthy sources from among a large amount of information.

The OECD study, an analysis of digital skills, comes from the same stable as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) surveys that rank 15-year-olds around the world in reading, maths and science.

The risk of spending too much time on the internet is also highlighted, with students who spend more than six hours on line every weekday (outside of school) more likely to report feeling lonely at school or being late for, or skipping, school.

The report holds important lessons for education systems generally, concluding that while technology can help great teaching, great technology cannot replace poor teaching.

The results show no appreciable improvements in student achievement in reading, maths or science in the countries that had invested heavily in technology in education.

OECD director for education and skills Andreas Schleicher said school systems needed to find more effective ways to integrate technology into teaching and learning.

According to the report, education systems have yet to become good enough at the kind of teaching that makes the most of technology and students would not get smarter by simply using smartphones to copy and paste prefabricated answers.

It found that where computers are used, their impact is mixed. Students who use computers moderately at school tend to have better learning outcomes than those who used them rarely, while students who use them frequently at school do a lot worse.

The report describes as “perhaps the most disappointing” finding that technology has been of little help in bridging the skills divide between disadvantaged and advantaged students. Ensuring that every child has a basic level of proficiency in reading and maths does more to create equal opportunities than by expanding access to hi-tech devices and services, it finds.

Irish Independent

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