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PISA shows stark differences between the proportion of advantaged and disadvantaged students with access to three or more devices in the home.
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Remote learning may amplify student disadvantage

Research 4 minute read

ACER Deputy CEO Dr Sue Thomson warns there are marked differences between the haves and the have nots when it comes to the ease with which students can change from doing most of their learning at school, to doing all of their learning at home.

In her latest article for Teacher, Dr Sue Thomson draws on data from the OECD’s 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and 2018 Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) to examine Australian student, teacher and school preparedness for remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘It is important to recognise that some children will thrive and adapt easily to the new learning environment, that some children and schools are more prepared for this, and that for some children, this will serve to further amplify their learning disadvantage,’ Dr Thomson writes.

PISA reveals that 78 per cent of disadvantaged students – those in the lowest socioeconomic quartile – report having a quiet place to study, compared to 96 per cent of advantaged students – those in the highest socioeconomic quartile.

And while 84 per cent of disadvantaged students, compared to 99 per cent of advantaged students, report that they have a computer at home to use for school work, just 41 per cent of students from disadvantaged families reported having three or more computers in the home, compared to 91 per cent of students in advantaged homes. Dr Thomson says this puts extra strain on disadvantaged students to negotiate for computer time if parents are also working from home or other siblings are doing their schooling at home.

Dr Thomson also points to data that shows students in advantaged classes are more likely to spend greater amounts of time using digital devices in their English, mathematics and sciences classes, and more likely to be allowed to use ICT for projects or classwork.

‘Socioeconomically advantaged students have an edge over disadvantaged students in that they have many more hours of use under their belt, and so are more familiar with the software being used,’ Dr Thomson writes. ■

Read the full article:
‘What PISA tells us about our preparedness for remote learning’, written by Sue Thomson and published in Teacher magazine, is available at <>

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