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Irish teens ‘substantially below’ EU average when using digital technology for learning

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Capacity of schools to use digital technology to support learning was significantly lower than the OECD and EU averages. Stock image

Capacity of schools to use digital technology to support learning was significantly lower than the OECD and EU averages. Stock image

Capacity of schools to use digital technology to support learning was significantly lower than the OECD and EU averages. Stock image

Irish teenagers are “substantially” below students of the same age in other countries when it comes to using digital technology for learning.

The shortcomings are highlighted in a report tracking trends from global school studies conducted in 2012, 2015 and 2018 for the international think-tank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) covering more than 30 countries in the developed world.

An analysis of the OECD studies of 15-year-old students, known as PISA, by the Educational Research Centre (ERC), found that Ireland fared quite well on broad measures of school digital technology infrastructure.

However, Ireland was “significantly and substantially” below the EU and OECD averages on measures of student digital technology usage for learning – both inside and outside of school.

According to the ERC, in its Digital Technologies in Education report published today, this was a consistent finding across the three studies.

The ERC also said in 2018, the capacity of schools in Ireland to use digital technology to support teaching and learning was significantly lower than the OECD and EU averages.

A more detailed examination by the ERC of issues contributing to digital technology capacity in post-primary schools showed that the perceived adequacy of technical support was particularly low.

Only one in five students were in schools whose principals reported that the level of technical support was adequate.

The ERC found that in 2018, students in Ireland reported relatively high levels of perceived digital technology competence and autonomy, although it was lower among girls and among socio-economically disadvantaged students.

Countries with generally strong track records on school digital technology infrastructure and usage, and of student educational usage, included Australia, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.

The Irish findings may come as little surprise against the backdrop of previous reports highlighting lack of technical support for schools, poor broadband connectivity in some areas and the need for more teacher training to improve competence levels.

While the studies on which the findings are based pre-dated the pandemic, when a switch to online teaching and learning forced a rapid development of digital skills, the ERC says they provide a baseline against which to monitor progress.

The ERC authors suggest that a review of the digital technology-related policies and practices in countries with strong track records of technology in education could be valuable in guiding aspects of the implementation of the new Digital Strategy in Schools, launched earlier this year.

Lead author Dr Jude Cosgrove said while Ireland generally fared reasonably well in international comparisons, it lagged behind in some areas.

“Some of the international comparative research has attributed this to a lack of a national over-arching vision and longer-term plan for digital technologies in education.”


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