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Primary students’ results improve with fibre broadband

07 Apr 17

Access to fibre broadband is increasing the success rate of primary school students in reading, writing and mathematics.

A new study has found that around 4,600 more students each year will reach National Standards simply because of the schools’ access to fibre broadband.

Since 2008 the New Zealand Government has invested over $1 billion developing an ultra-fast broadband initiative, a network that prioritised school connections.

The study from Motu Economic and Public Policy Research Trust uses the fact that schools gained access to UFB at different times to evaluate the effect on academic performance. This is the first research anywhere in the world to specifically evaluate the effect of fibre broadband on educational achievement.

Senior fellow at Motu and co-author of the study, Arthur Grimes, says having fibre broadband in a school increases National Standards passing rates in each of the three subjects each year by about two students at the average-sized primary school. Equating to about 4600 students across all the schools within the sample.

“We found some evidence indicating that students at low decile schools benefit more than students at higher decile schools.

“By contrast, we found no significant differences in effect sizes among ethnic groups or genders, or between urban schools and those which are more isolated.”

Though the increase is evident, the data cannot identify the mechanism through which fibre broadband increases school performance, says Grimes.

“There could be a number of reasons for the increase, perhaps fibre broadband expands the set of technologies available, which may allow teaching to be more individualised and more engaging, or may facilitate better monitoring of student performance. Alternatively, greater computer skills could lead to children improving their academic skills at school or at home. UFB may also allow schools to perform previously-expensive tasks cheaply, reallocating their resources towards academic achievement.”

Because there are fewer data points for secondary schools, the study found no evidence for fibre broadband affecting overall NCEA pass rates, although there was evidence that level one numeracy pass rates were lifted as a result of fibre broadband access.

The Huawei funded research found that there has been enough of an increase in educational performance to justify the government initiative.

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