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OECD: Technology divide exposed

April 02, 2020

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is assessing the impact of technology on students and their learning outcomes as millions of schools close in over 140 countries to prevent the spread of COVID-19. And it has recognised the valuable contribution teachers made in the education process.

Online learning opportunities are on the rise globally as many teachers turn to technology to reach their pupils. Over 1.5 billion students are affected by government closure of schools and teachers are endeavouring to use technology to maintain the teaching and learning process.

“Online learning has changed from a nice-to-have extracurricular facility to becoming the lifeline for education,” according to Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s head of the Directorate of Education and Skills.

Not a level playing field

In a new report, PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment)2018, the OECD analyses how well-prepared schools and students are to implement remote learning.

The data shows that the technology divide is one of the main hurdles in this context. In Denmark, Slovenia, Norway, Poland, Lithuania, Iceland, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands, over 95 per cent of students reported having a computer to use for their work. Only 34 per cent in Indonesia did. In the United States of America, virtually every 15-year-old from a privileged background said they had a computer to work, but nearly one-quarter of those from disadvantaged backgrounds did not. These divides will likely worsen, as significant job losses and a recession affect the most marginalised in every society, including their families.

Unequal access to resources

“Most of the education systems covered by the OECD’s latest round of the Programme for International Student Assessment are not ready for the world of digital learning opportunities,” concludes the report. Quiet places to study, access to the internet - or even access to a computer – these are variables that determine the success of online learning and that show huge differences from country to country. Other issues include infrastructure, with schools often lacking adequate bandwidth and software. Many teachers lack the necessary training in new technologies to adapt their teaching to online methods in a few days or weeks as is required under the current circumstances. Many schools also lack sufficient numbers of qualified technical assistant staff.

Role of schools

On a social level, the study concludes that schools are key in the creation of effective social relationships between families, teachers and students. This is the case “particularly for those who lack the resilience, learning strategies or engagement to learn on their own”. With regard to teachers, the study is clear: “Technology can amplify the work of great teachers, but it will not replace teachers”.

You can find the OECD's "PISA 2018: Insights and Interpretations" with many more data and analysis by clicking here.

Article originally published by Education International.

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Authorised by John Dixon, General Secretary, NSW Teachers Federation, 23-33 Mary St. Surry Hills NSW 2010

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