Monday 29 December 2014

Irish students poor computer use in school laid bare

Ireland ranks 17 out of 28 countries

Katherine Donnelly, Education Editor

Published 01/04/2014 | 11:39

IRISH 15-year-olds lack of use of computers for school-related work is blamed for their “average” performance in the latest international comparison of student performance.

The Irish ranked 17th out of 28 countries in the developed world on creative problem-solving on computers, and 22nd out of 44 countries.

The Irish scores were less well than expected when compared with their performance in traditional print tests  in maths, reading and science, in the same study.

And Ireland’s Educational Research Centre (ERC) says that the fact that the latest assessments were computed-based  may have had an effect on performance.

“Students in Ireland may have been disadvantaged relative to students in other counties due to less familiarity with using computers, at home and at school, for school-related tasks.

According to the ERC, students in Ireland reported using information and communications technology (ICT) LACK OF COMPTUERS BLAMED FOR in general, in maths lessons and at home for school-related tasks less often than the average across the OECD, representing the developed world.

Today’s report , Creative Problem Solving – Students’ Skill in Tackling Real-life Problems is the latest from the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), an international survey of the achievements of 15-year-olds carried out every three years.

The most recent cycle in 2012 involved 65 countries, including all 34 OECD members countries, all of which took part in paper –based tests while some, including Ireland, also participated in  computer-based assessments.

The 40 minute computer-based assessment was aimed at measuring general problem-solving competencies. While there was some overlap with maths competencies, it was not specifically designed as an assessment of maths problem-solving

It found that students in Ireland were as likely as students on average across OECD countries to be successful on knowledge-acquisition tasks,  involving the processes of ‘exploring and understanding’ and ‘representing and formulating’.

However, students in Ireland were significantly less likely to be successful on knowledge-utilisation tasks , involving the processes of ‘planning and executing’ , while they are significantly more likely to be successful on tasks involving ‘monitoring and reflecting’.

Countries like the United States, Norway, Denmark and Sweden performed similarly to Ireland; while Canada, Australia, Finland and the UK performed significantly better than Ireland.  The top six performing countries are in Asia, with Singapore ranked first.

The PISA study is well known for how it measures the performance of 15 year olds in maths, reading and science, which has been done in traditional print format.

What makes today’s findings  doubly worrying is that when the next round of PISA is conducted in 2015, there will be a switch to computer assessment for all  tests.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn said the findings made a case for reform of Junior Cycle , which, he said, was crucial in addressing the performance of  15 year olds performance of problem solving.

He said the short-comings identified in this and previous PISA reports had informed the changes that being introduced through Project Maths and reform of the Junior Cert.

“There is also evidence which suggests that the student centred approaches and ICT activity of Transition Year result in better problem solving skills.  Such problem solving skills are promoted and embedded in the six key skills outlined in the new framework for Junior Cycle.

He said improvements in ICT, such as high speed broadband being available in all second level schools from September and the proposed new Digital Strategy for Schools would also benefit students.

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