Computer lesson

OECD Observer

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Are computers really everywhere? Not in some schools. Governments have invested heavily in the past 20 years to make computers and the Internet available in schools in the most advanced OECD countries, but their use by teachers and students is disappointing, a new report says.

In fact, fewer than 20% of upper secondary pupils attend schools with enough workstations for every teacher, according to Completing the Foundation for Lifelong Learning: An OECD Survey of Upper Secondary Schools. Only in Korea is there at least one computer available for every teacher, while in Belgium’s Flemish community, Italy and Portugal, more than 10 teachers have to share every computer. But matters are not much better for students. In 11 of the 14 countries surveyed, a shortage of computers for students was cited as one of the biggest obstacles to greater use of information technology.

On average, in OECD countries participating in the survey, upper secondary schools have one computer for every nine students. Within these averages, some schools will naturally have better ratios than others, and there are wide differences between countries too. In Denmark there is one computer for every three students, while despite the Celtic Tiger, in Ireland, there are more than 13 students for every computer available.

The most common reasons cited for this rather surprising under-use of IT include difficulties in integrating it into classroom instruction and problems in scheduling enough computer time for classes – in other words, dealing with it as another subject, rather than as a means. Also, teachers lack the skills and knowledge to use it. And for that extra class, hiring IT teachers is the toughest recruitment problem they face.

©OECD Observer No 242, March 2004

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