A Cross-national Comparison of Gender, ICT Use and Academic Achievement among Secondary Students
Much debate, both in academic and policy forums, focuses on the effects of use of information and communication technology (ICT) on young people’s educational achievements. These debates typically are aligned between advocates versus skeptics; those who believe ICT has profound possibilities for improving young people’s human capital skills, versus those who see ICT as potentially interfering with the development of core literacies, such as reading and math. The proposed paper empirically explores the nature of the relationship between ICT use and reading, math, and science achievement of 15-year old students in 26 countries that participated in the OECD PISA2000 surveys and elected to administer the IT module.
Prior analyses document that in almost all of the OECD countries, girls are less likely than boys to embrace ICT. At the same time, in all countries the reading attainment of girls substantially exceeds that of boys. This raises two questions: 1) What is the nature of the link, if any, between ICT use and achievement? 2) Is the relationship between ICT use and achievement scores gendered; i.e., is the effect of ICT use on achievement different among boys than among girls, and 3) does this relationship differ for the domains of reading, math, and science.
Preliminary analysis shows consistent connections between ICT use and all three achievement domains in most countries. However, the link between ICT use and academic achievement is inherently neither benign nor detrimental. Rather, the analysis suggests an optimal level of ICT use; i.e., up to a point ICT use is related to higher achievement test scores, after that point, ICT use is related to lower scores, and this optimal level differs somewhat between boys and girls.
Keywords: gender, computer use, cross-national comparisons, academic achievement, secondary school
Dr. Victor Thiessen
Professor, Dept. of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Dalhousie University