Students fare better reading from screen than paper
IRISH teenagers perform better in computer-based reading tests rather than those involving the printed word.
They are significantly above average in an international digital literacy league, after a test of their comprehension of texts such as emails and web pages.
But Education Minister Ruairi Quinn admitted yesterday that there was still cause for concern about reading standards among Irish 15 year olds.
Mr Quinn said: "A decline has occurred in reading standards in Ireland over the last decade."
Experts at the Educational Research Centre (ERC) in Drumcondra, Dublin, are studying the results of a new survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and trying to understand why students did better on the digital test than on the pencil and paper test.
ERC director Dr Peter Archer said: "It may have to do with the fact that some students found the digital context more familiar and more interesting than the printed test."
The 'Students Online' report published yesterday by the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is the latest in a series tracking literacy and numeracy performances in 65 countries.
In 2009, the OECD scored students' reading comprehension in a 40-minute online test, as well as a print exam.
There was concern last year when the results of the conventional test showed a sharp decline in Irish literacy standards, bringing them down to the OECD average. The Department of Education responded with plans for national literacy and numeracy strategy.
Now, the results of the computer-based test ranks Ireland above the OECD average, and eighth out of 19 countries surveyed. Among the same 19 countries, Ireland is placed 11th on the print reading test.
Irish students scored 509 points in the digital test, above the 486 recorded in the 2009 print reading test, but below the 527 achieved in the PISA print test in 2000.
According to Dr Archer, this suggests that Ireland's actual level of performance on reading literacy lies somewhere between the high score achieved in PISA 2000 and the lower score achieved in PISA 2009.
Only Korea, New Zealand, Australia and Japan achieved higher scores in digital reading.
IBEC said they were concerned that 63pc of Irish students are using computers at school, compared with an OECD average of 74pc.