Saturday, 8 January 2011

Broadband in schools and student achievement

This was the topic covered by one of the most interesting papers presented at a recent conference on the economics of education at ISEG. The authors are Rodrigo Belo, Pedro Ferreira and Rahul Telang (from Carnegie Mellon University, Instituto Superior Técnico and Universidade Católica). They study the relationship between student achievement in lower secondary schools in Portugal and the amount of broadband usage in those schools.

Since broadband was deployed across schools in Portugal from late 2005 to early 2006, they use achievement levels from 2004/2005 as a comparison point to the achievement levels in 2008 and 2009. Moreover, the authors also employ a clever statistical technique to take into account the possibility that variation in internet usage after the introduction of broadband is picking up the role of other variables that also affect achievement (e.g. schools that become better managed - leading to better student results - could also see their internet usage go up).

What are the results? Surprisingly - or not -, internet usage is found to decrease student achievement. According to the authors, the results suggest that "the introduction of this technology in the school environment must be complemented with policies aimed at embedding Internet in the education system", to promote "productive use of Internet that complements traditional study rather than broadband use for entertainment or leisure purposes."

Is Magalhães the same?

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