The world’s first computer-based international study into computer and information literacy shows that Australian students are developing the skills necessary for successful participation in the digital world. Julian Fraillon reports.
The International Computer and Information Literacy Study (ICILS), coordinated internationally by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) for the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, gathered data in 2013 from almost 60 000 Year 8 (or equivalent) students in more than 3300 schools in 21 countries, as well as data from almost 35 000 teachers, school information and communication technology (ICT) coordinators and school principals.
This pioneering study provides a baseline for future measurement of computer and information literacy in itself, and across countries. Comparisons in the 2013 study are only possible between the 14 countries or education systems that were able to meet the required participation rate.
ICILS reveals that Australian Year 8 students’ skills in collecting and managing information, and producing and exchanging information are exceeded only by those of students in Czech Republic
The study shows that our students are developing the computer and information literacy necessary to participate in the digital age.
The study also shows that teachers’ ICT use is greatest when they work in well-resourced schools that collaborate on and plan ICT use. Planning at the system and school level should focus on increasing teacher expertise and collaboration in ICT use.
The fact remains, however, that preparing essays and presentations or completing worksheets remain the most common uses of ICT. The much-vaunted benefits of collaborative learning and flipped classrooms appear still to be outside the regular experience of most students.
National comparisons by state
|Infographic: Australian students' readiness
for study, work and life in the digital age
Australian students achieved an average score of 542 points on the ICILS scale of computer and information literacy, significantly higher than the ICILS average of 500 points.
Thirty nine per cent of Victorian students achieved at Level 3 or 4, Level 4 being the highest proficiency level, while 38 per cent of students from the Australian Capital Territory achieved at this level, followed by 36 per cent of students from New South Wales and South Australia, 33 per cent from Western Australia, 31 per cent from the Northern Territory, 30 per cent from Tasmania and 27 per cent from Queensland.
Students working at Level 4 are able to select the most relevant information to use for communicative purposes. They evaluate usefulness of information based on criteria associated with need and evaluate the reliability of information based on its content and probable origin.
Thirty one per cent of Queensland students achieved at Level 1, the lowest proficiency level, with 29 per cent from Tasmania and NT, 23 per cent from NSW, and 20 per cent from WA, ACT and Victoria.
Students working at Level 1 are able to demonstrate a functional working knowledge of computers as tools and a basic understanding of the consequences of computers being accessed by multiple users.
Significant differences between the sexes were found to be in favour of girls in almost all countries. In Australia, girls achieved significantly higher scores than boys, consistent with the findings from the National Assessment Program Information and Communication Technology Literacy assessment in 2011.
Twice as many girls (six per cent) as boys (three per cent) achieved the highest proficiency level, while 40 per cent of girls achieved Level 3 or higher compared to 29 per cent of boys.
The proportion of girls who achieved Level 3 or higher ranged from 32 per cent in Queensland to 45 per cent in Victoria, while the proportion of boys achieving this level ranged from 20 per cent in Queensland to 37 per cent in the ACT.
By socioeconomic background
The higher the level of a student’s socioeconomic background – based on parental occupational status and education, and the number of books in the home – the better students performed. Within Australia, 15 per cent of students in the lowest socioeconomic quartile achieving Level 3 or higher compared to 29 per cent in the second socioeconomic quartile, 40 per cent in the third socioeconomic quartile and 54 per cent in the highest socioeconomic quartile.
By geographic location of school
Students from metropolitan schools achieved significantly higher proficiency scores than students from provincial or remote schools.
Five per cent of students from metropolitan schools achieved the highest proficiency level, while two per cent of students from provincial schools and one per cent of students from remote schools reached this level. Twenty per cent of students from metropolitan schools, 30 per cent of students from provincial schools and 40 per cent of students from remote schools performed at or below Level 1.
Korea had the highest proportion of students to achieve the highest proficiency level (five per cent), followed by Australia and Poland, where four per cent achieved this level. Thirty-seven per cent of students in the Czech Republic, 35 per cent of students in Korea, 34 per cent of students in Australia and 33 per cent of students in Poland achieved a proficiency of Level 3 or 4.
In all countries except Thailand and Turkey, the highest proportions of students achieved at Level 2, ranging from 36 per cent in Korea to 48 per cent in the Czech Republic. In Australia, 42 per cent achieved at this level. Eighty-five per cent of students in the Czech Republic and 75 per cent of students in Australia, Norway and Poland achieved at Level 2 or higher.
Internationally, 45 per cent of students reported using computers, on average, to prepare reports or essays; 44 per cent to prepare presentations; 40 per cent to work with other students from their own school; and 39 per cent to complete worksheets or exercises. Writing about their learning was reported by 19 per cent, while working with students from other schools was reported by 13 per cent.
ICILS reveals that ICT is used in 56 per cent of technology or computer studies classes, 20 per cent of natural sciences and humanities classes, 14 per cent of mathematics classes and 10 per cent of creative arts classes.
Three out of five teachers use computers at least once a week when teaching, while four out of five use computers on a weekly basis for other work at their schools.
ICT use is highest among teachers who are confident about their ICT expertise and who work in schools where staff collaborate on and plan ICT use, and where there are fewer resource limitations. These are also the conditions that support the teaching of computer and information literacy. ■
Read the full report:
ICILS Australian report
International Computer and Information Literacy Study 2013: Australian students’ readiness for study, work and life in the digital age (PDF: 260 pages, 4.9 MB)
ICILS at a glance
ICILS at a glance: Highlights from the full Australian report – Australian students’ readiness for study, work and life in the digital age (PDF: 28 pages, 3.6 MB)
ICILS international report
Preparing for Life in a Digital Age. The IEA International Computer and Information Literacy Study International Report. (PDF: 305 pages, 10.1 MB)