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One Laptop per Child program not improving math or language test scores, according to study

FLICKR OLPC classroom students

The One Laptop per Child (OLPC) program started shipping its affordable and durable computers to students in developing countries back in 2007, and since then well over a million have been deployed to countries around the world. The program may not be as successful as that number sounds, however: a new study of 319 primary schools in Peru over a course of 15 months from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has found that there is no evidence that it has had an effect on math and language test scores. Furthermore, the results show that the laptops didn't make students spend more time devoted to schoolwork or reading. Why the poor results? The IDB concludes that OLPC doesn't provide enough guidance to teachers to tell them how to effectively use the computers (and tablets) in their courses.

The IDB does say that there are some positive effects from the program, however. Of course, far more students and households have access to a computer now — the ratio of computers to students has risen from 0.28 to 1.18 — and thanks to that children are now more comfortable with basic computing tasks like word processing. Students also demonstrated increased cognitive abilities from the OLPC program, but internet skills were limited because most don't have access to the web. Unsurprisingly, it appears that computers alone can't enhance a learning experience — they need to be carefully integrated to best suit a learning environment.

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