03/02/2004 - Major investment outlays over the past 20 years have brought modern Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) into nearly all schools in the most advanced OECD countries, but the extent to which computers are in day-to-day use in these schools remains disappointing, according to a new OECD report.
Completing the Foundation for Lifelong Learning: An OECD survey of Upper Secondary Schools, draws on data from 14 OECD countries -- Belgium (Flanders), Denmark, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Korea, Mexico, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland -- to review the structural barriers preventing full and effective use of ICT in upper secondary schools. Its conclusions raise important issues for the scheduling of teachers’ time, class-room organisation and teachers’ professional development.
Despite the large sums of money spent on ICT, fewer than 20 per cent of students attend schools where there are enough workstations for every teacher to have one, according to this OECD report. And in 11 out of 14 countries surveyed, a shortage of computers for students was cited as one of the biggest obstacles to greater ICT use.
Educational use of computers is in fact sporadic across all countries, with information gathering from the Internet being the most common way in which computers are used. On average across the countries surveyed, the principals of only around 20 per cent of students reported that computers are used "a lot" as a source of additional instruction or to allow students to work at their own pace. Only a minority of teachers across countries regularly use standard computer applications, according to their principals, and only in Denmark, Sweden and Korea do the proportions who do so reach 60 per cent.
Given the explosion in use of ICT in other walks of life, these figures are surprisingly low. The most common reasons cited for this under-use are: difficulties in integrating ICT into classroom instruction; problems in scheduling enough computer time for classes; and teachers’ lack of ICT skills and knowledge. In addition, principals report that recruiting ICT teachers is by far the most difficult recruitment problem that they face across all school subjects.
Other key findings in the report are:
The extent of selection in admission and grouping policies varies greatly between countries. Belgium’s Flanders region and Hungary are on average more selective, while Norway and Sweden are at the other end of the spectrum. However, the study also suggests that selective policies do not always lead to less equitable outcomes.
The guidance and support which students receive plays a part in this. Particularly well developed career guidance systems are to be found in Denmark, Finland, Korea and Ireland, where more than 80 per cent of students receive individual career counselling in the last year of their upper secondary programmes.
Seeking feedback from stakeholders and others is indicative of an adaptive organisation responding to the world which it must prepare its students for. The survey results suggest that on average Finland, Hungary and Korea receive feedback from the greatest range of stakeholders.
All countries face some difficulties in hiring teachers and there is significant variation within countries. In Belgium’s Flanders region, the majority of students attend schools where principals report above average difficulties in hiring teachers. Above average difficulties are also reported for Finland, Ireland and Switzerland. These countries succeed to varying degrees in filling vacant posts with fully-qualified staff. In both Flanders and Ireland, 95 per cent or more of pupils attend schools that fill vacancies with fully qualified staff.
Assessing countries across these and other benchmarks derived from the study (see Figure 1
), indicates that all countries have strengths and weaknesses within their upper secondary school systems. Overall, the Nordic countries- Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden – appear to have the greatest number of strengths, followed by Korea. For the Nordic countries much of this strength is centred on the availability and use of computers and teachers’ professional development. The challenges which countries generally face in these areas have to be tackled also by the Nordic countries though these findings suggest that they may have something of a head-start with this.
The report is available to journalists through the OECD’s password-protected website or from the Media Relations Division . For further information, journalists may contact Michael Davidson (tel  1 45 24 92 25) in the OECD’s Directorate for Education.
Subscribers and readers at subscribing institutions can access the study via SourceOECD our online library. Non-subscribers will be able to purchase the study via our Online Bookshop.
For further information .