How does recreational computer use contribute to student performance?

A study of the effects of ICT on learning in Latin America reveals that using computers for recreational activities can have a negative effect on academic performance.

The findings come in an edition of a TERCE (Third Regional Comparative and Explanatory Study) Insight, a study disseminated by OREALC/UNESCO Santiago on education topics. It aims to provide analysis on a specific issue that forms part of the TERCE findings and that guides decision-making regarding educational policy in the region.

TERCE is a large scale study of learning achievement implemented in 2013 in 15 countries, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, and the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon (Mexico).

In the Education 1020 Agenda framework UNESCO recognizes the importance of ICT for educational inclusion and to promote lifelong quality learning opportunities.

Availability of computers varies widely in the region

In Latin America the availability of computer resources varied depending on the country’s resources and infrastructure. Data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (2012) shows that for example in the Dominican Republic around 122 students in primary education share one single computer while in Uruguay every child has its own computer thanks to its national policy.

The TERCE insight compares how computers are used at home, in the classroom and at school in general in the 15 countries.

The Insight study concludes that it is not the mere presence of the computer but rather type, frequency and place of use that determines the negative or positive relationship with academic performance. The negative effect is also more prevalent in natural sciences and less so in reading.

It recommends, among others, that teachers and families be ensured access to basic education and training on the appropriate use of digital technology and that good educational practices in relation to ICT be fostered.

Parent involvement key in computer use

Atilio Pizarro, Latin American Laboratory for Assessment of the Quality of Education (LLECE) General Coordinator, said “It is important to work with parents for the use of digital technologies in order to properly accompany students. Involvement of parents in the educational processes has a positive association with academic performance. Thus, therefore it is recommended that educational systems design strategies to foster a positive partnership between home and school.”

UNESCO considers that ICTs can contribute to universal access to education, equity in education, the delivery of quality learning and teaching, teachers’ professional development as well as improve education management, governance and administration provided the right mix of policies, technologies and capacities are in place.

Through its country and regional offices and institutes and in collaboration with partners, the Organization develops resources to help countries elaborate effective education policies in relation to ICTs.


TERCE in Sight, n°2, Recreational use of computers: What is the contribution to student performance?, January 2016

ICT in Education