Lack of computers in schools may be a blessing - OECD report

Intense computer use in class linked to ‘significantly poorer student performance’

Ireland has one of the lowest rates of internet use in schools in the world but, ironically, it may be doing students more good than harm, according to a global study published on Tuesday.

The report by the educational wing of the OECD into the impact of computer and internet use on test scores shows there is “no appreciable improvements in student achievement in reading, mathematics or science in the countries that had invested heavily in ICT [Information and Communications Technology] for education”.

Ireland is ranked fifth from the bottom for use of ICT in schools, and fourth from the bottom for the use of ICT for schoolwork at home, the report shows. Irish teenagers spend on average 16 minutes on the internet at school during weekdays compared to an OECD average of 25 minutes, and a high of 58 minutes in Australia.

Overload and plagiarism

However, it says the results of its Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) tests, run every three years internationally on 15-year-old pupils, indicate that increasing digital access in education without proper controls can lead to problems ranging from “information overload” to “click and paste” plagiarism.


“While Pisa results suggest that limited use of computers at school may be better than not using computers at all, using them more intensively than the current OECD average tends to be associated with significantly poorer student performance.

“ICT is linked to better student performance only in certain contexts, such as when computer software and internet connections help to increase study time and practice.”

Joe Humphreys

Joe Humphreys

Joe Humphreys is an Assistant News Editor at The Irish Times and writer of the Unthinkable philosophy column