OECD: Computer use improves school performance

A new OECD report says school students who regularly use computers perform better in key subjects than those with little experience or a lack of confidence when it comes to performing basic computer tasks.

Access to computers in schools has increased in most OECD countries -- New Zealand is number five on the list -- but in some countries students still have limited access. Access to computers is more common at school than at home, but the study shows that 15-year-old students use their computers at home more frequently.

Nearly three out of four students on average in OECD countries use computers at home several times a week, while in Canada, Iceland and Sweden that figure is nine out of ten. But only 44 percent use computers frequently at school. Eighty percent of students in New Zealand report frequent use of computers at home, whereas only 45 percent use computers frequently at school, says the report. Germany has the lowest percentage of frequent computer users at school (23 percent) but a high number of frequent users at home (82 percent).

The study shows there is a significant connection between computer skills and student performance in mathematics. The majority of students who have used computers for several years perform better than average, while those who have been using computers for only a short time tend to lag behind their classmates.

The study also found that girls are less confident than boys in performing computer tasks, especially high-level tasks like programming or multimedia presentations. Girls also tend to use computers less frequently than boys, who are more likely than girls to play computer games and engage in programming.

The study is based on OECD's PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) 2003 assessment of the educational performance of 15-year olds.

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Ulrika Hedquist

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