Sweden's web surfing pupils falling behind in maths and reading

4:59 min

Significant investment in information and communication technology (ICT) devices in the classroom does not greatly improve pupils' performance, and is more likely to be linked with lower results. That's according to a report from the OECD, which found that Swedish pupils' skills in digital reading comprehension and maths have declined. 

When it comes to digital reading comprehension, Sweden is in the middle layer, around the OECD average, but drops significantly compared to the study made in 2009.

In Sweden, solving maths problems digitally is in the category of "well below the OECD average."

The 15-year-olds who surf more than six hours a day find it more difficult to solve mathematical problems and reading comprehension tests than classmates who a surf maximum of one hour a day. The statistics are based on results from the OECD's PISA study of 2012, which examined the impact of schools integrating ICT into students' learning experiences and performances in international test results, such as the PISA tests.

The think-tank found Sweden to be among the top group of countries with the highest level of internet use inside the classroom, but who experienced "significant declines" in maths and reading  performance.

Sweden is fourth top behind Australia, Denmark and Greece in the average daily minutes using the internet at school, according to the study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, (OECD).

Examing the figures, Sweden's Education Agency (Skolverket), found that, on average, Swedish pupils spend 39 minutes per day of school time online. However, six percent are online all of four hours or more every school day.

"Pupils who use the internet more than four hours per day in school consistently have the lowest scores in reading, maths, digital reading and digital mathematics," writes the National Agency for Education in a press release.

The OECD report says that education systems which have invested heavily in information and communications technology have seen "no noticeable improvement" in PISA test results for reading, mathematics or science. OECD education director Andreas Schleicher told BBC News that school technology had raised "too many false hopes".

He said that the best performing pupils in countries, such as South Korea, rarely used technology in the classroom.

The study shows "there is no single country in which the internet is used frequently at school by a majority of students and where students' performance improved".

Andreas Schleider warned against governments using the figures to cut down on investment in technology in schools. Instead, he wants teachers to have a better approach to teaching pupils with computers.

That's a view shared by Anders Fredriksson, Deputy Head of the National Agency for Education's performance evaluation unit.

"It is the students who use IT a lot that have worse results. In this context, the outcome in mathematics is important, because there are pupils who have reported that they use IT a lot in mathematics instruction, and they are also those pupils who have lower results. In those cases it is the teacher who has decided on the content, so it really is food for thought on the use of IT in schools," he tells Swedish Radio News.

Sweden has in relation to the other countries in the report, the largest percentage of students who use the internet more than six hours a day.. Boys are over-represented and represent seventy percent of the group known as extreme internet users.

"Access to IT is good and the use of the internet is widespread among Swedish students. The results suggest that schools have a long way to go to putting this asset into raising pupils' learning outcomes," says Anders Fredriksson.

Sweden's results in the OECD's PISA assessment tests, which are taken in more 70 countries, have gotten worse and worse since the first report 15 years ago.

Over two years ago, the OECD's PISA survey found that the country's performance has declined over the past decade from around average to significantly below average. No other country taking part in PISA has seen a steeper fall, it said.

In the most recent test in 2012, Sweden ranked 28 among the 34 OECD countries in mathematics, 27 in reading and 27 in science.