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PC use gives students an advantage in school

OECD study says computer access linked to performance

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Students who use computers regularly are getting a headstart on their peers when it comes to school subjects, according to a new OECD study.

The report, "Are students ready for a technology-rich world?", claims that school students who use computers regularly perform better in key school subjects than those with limited computer experience or a lack of confidence when it comes to performing basic computer tasks.

This advantage can be seen clearly in mathematics performance. The study found that those without regular access to computers lagged behind their peers.

The study found that students who had been using computers for less than a year scored significantly below the OECD average, while students who had been using computers for more than five years scored well above it.

The poorer performance of those who do not have access to, or have only recently accessed, computers can also be attributed in part to their background. The report notes that students with low access to computers at home are typically from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Meanwhile, Irish students are lagging behind in their attitude towards computers, with the country rated as having one of the least positive attitudes towards computers, along with Japan, Denmark, Finland and Hungary. In contrast, students in countries such as Austria, Canada and Germany displayed a positive attitude.

School hours are not the primary time for accessing computers, however. Despite an increase in computer access in OECD countries, most students are still getting more access to the technology at home. Almost three quarters of students in OECD countries use computers at home each week. This figure jumps to nine out of 10 for Canada, Iceland and Sweden. This compares with only 44 percent using computers frequently in school.

The report also found that access to computers is evenly spread across both genders in most OECD countries. However, in Ireland, Belgium and Korea, a larger number of girls than boys say they have access to computers at school.

Girls have also emerged as less confident than boys when it comes to performing computer functions, particularly high-level tasks like programming or multimedia presentations.

The advantages of providing children with access to computers have been heavily debated. In August last year, business body IBEC called for the Government to provide second level school children with laptops, saying that they could be "an important education enabler".

However, this thinking clashes with a 2004 report from the IFO, an economic research unit at the University of Munich, which claimed that students' education levels have little to do with computers in schools and more to do with effective school management.

Copyright © 2006, ENN

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