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Insights into Editorial: The Perils of e-fixation


Insights into Editorial: The Perils of e-fixation

15 October 2015


The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), through its recent study, has generated sufficient evidence to say that computers in schools do not necessarily contribute to higher achievement levels by children.

How the study was carried out?

  • The study used two kinds of data from different countries. One set of data consisted of children’s scores in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests of reading and mathematics. The other set of data is about the availability and use of computers and Internet in schools and homes.
  • These two kinds of data have been analyzed to find out whether computer-based teaching in the classroom improves children’s ability to read purposefully, and their performance in science and mathematics.
  • The study also compared different OECD countries in terms of the average daily time spent by children in computer-assisted learning in the classroom.

Findings of the study:

The findings of the study have received worldwide attention. The study shows that;

  • In countries where computers and the Internet are used frequently in the classroom, students have not consistently achieved high scores in digital reading, mathematics or science.
  • On the other hand, countries like South Korea, Japan and Singapore, where classroom use of computers and the Internet is relatively limited or minimal, students have achieved consistently high scores over the recent years.

First of all, why do we need computer knowledge?

It is an accepted fact that young people need to be competent in the use of computers and Internet in order to do well in the job market.

What these studies indicate?

These revelations have raised some basic issues and questions about the policies followed in major European countries with the OECD’s inspiration and guidance. The finding also causes a dilemma.

How, even with limited accessibility to Internet and computers, East Asian countries are performing well?

  • Noted child psychologists have always advised caution in the use of new digital tools for teaching children. The OECD study suggests that East Asian countries are exercising this kind of caution.
  • These countries also exercise much focused policies.
  • And also, the policy environment across East Asia is a lot more positive as far as teachers are concerned.

Indian scenario:

  • Like all Western countries, India has invested a vast amount of public funds for the supply of computers to schools. Since the 1990s, State governments have spiritedly promoted the use of computers in teaching. In private schools too, the idea that computers enhance children’s academic achievement has been assumed to be true.

Is it true that the need of teachers is more in a computer-assisted lesson than in a conventional lesson?

  • Teachers matter even more in computer-equipped classrooms. The digital environment requires a greater engagement between the teacher and students over any subject matter. This necessity arises out of the nature of tools involved in the new information and communication technologies (ICTs). Both the speed at which the technologies respond and the quantum of information they provide need dexterous negotiation by the user.
  • Students using a computer with Internet need to develop considerable experience and skills of mindful reading to be able to spot important points and trace how they have been arrived at. When a variety of sources are available, students need to know how to distinguish reliable sources from the rest. Skills of this kind require painstaking guidance by a competent teacher.

Hence, the engagement expected between the teacher and the student would be higher in a computer-assisted lesson than in a conventional lesson.

How computer based education in India is treated?

In India, the computer is treated as a device that can make the teacher dispensable, even disposable. Millions of rupees have been spent by the governments on equipping schools with computers and millions more have been saved by reducing expenditure on teacher recruitment, emoluments, and training.

Where the real problem lies?

  • When it comes to preparing children and teachers for the problems and demands that the digital environment poses for education, India’s policies lack vision. Purchase and supply of technology to schools appear to be the only challenges the government worries about. At what age children need introduction to ICT and how their progress is to be guided have received less attention.
  • The new-age administrators in India believe that the Internet can address all pedagogic needs. They do not understand curriculum policies or examination reforms.
  • In India, it is increasingly becoming difficult to explain State policies. In many regions of India, lack of focus and volatility characterize both routine and reform activities in education.
  • In almost all States in India, equipping schools with computers is treated as a reliable short cut to higher quality.


Psychologists started to decipher the process of learning in childhood more than a hundred years ago. Jerome Bruner, arguably the most respected living psychologist today, wrote in an article a few years ago that a century of research on learning tells that we know very little about it. That means we need to be modest in our hopes, and substantially worried about the tumult our children are facing in a world that looks radically different from the one their parents know and live in. The OECD study compels us to revisit conventional assumption and the policies based on it. The study asks us to reflect on both the potential and limitations of the new tools now available for learning and teaching.