Unesco: learn more in public schools in Latin America

A UNESCO study published yesterday found the Argentine students attending private schools perform better in reading and natural science than their peers who attend public schools. The figure refers to 3rd and 6th grade, where students from private primary schools earned an average of 30 points higher than those of state schools in those two areas. In mathematics, however, no differences between the two types of schools met once ruled the socioeconomic variable.

The data comes from the second report of results of the test TERCE of Unesco, presented yesterday. The study refers to primary education in 15 countries in Latin America, including Argentina. While performance results had already been released in December last year, the focus of this new report are “associated factors” to learning.

The study found that the learning gap between the public and private system occurs in almost all Latin American countries, but when the influence of socioeconomic status of schools is discarded, only a few still show differences between them, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, in certain subjects and grades. In most countries, the differences in achievement between different types of school are attenuated or disappear when considering the socioeconomic level of the students.

When comparing rural to urban public schools, the study found that the first Unesco perform better. Argentine rural schools stand out at regional level: students reach higher levels of achievement in reading, mathematics and science than students in urban public schools.

The TERCE report also found that the contexts of school violence undermine learning, Argentina and countries like Brazil, Colombia and Mexico. For every point increase in the rate of violence in the school environment, student scores are reduced between 8 and 38 points. “The perception of violence is negatively related to attendance, behavior and academic performance of students,” says the document. He adds that the insert schools in High-violence “work in greater isolation and less involved members of the school community that when the social fabric is stronger.”

This can be worrisome considering another major findings: the involvement of families in the education of their children is key for these achieve better learning. “When parents call attention, compliment or support students by grades, academic achievement increases in a range between 7 and 36 points”,  says the document of Unesco.

Another key finding is that in Latin America the socioeconomic level of the school is the most important variable to explain the academic achievement of students. But Argentina is an exception compared to the other countries surveyed, the socioeconomic status of the local schools have a “moderating influence” on learning.

In other words, the Argentine education system is more egalitarian than the regional average. “A school system more homogeneous distribution of the results, such as Argentina, benefits from universal education policies – recommends Unesco -. These may include curricular changes, introducing educational systems of proven effectiveness, improvements in initial teacher training and continuous development, among other initiatives. ”

Regular use of computers in class low performance

Regular use of computers in the school attentive to learning. The data also arises from TERCE study: in Argentina, the 6th grade boys use computers in class more than twice per week gain between 30 and 45 points lower in reading, math and science. The use of netbooks once or twice a week, however, does not affect learning of Argentine boys: neither improves nor worsens.

In the other 14 countries surveyed, the daily use of the computer in class learning also decreases. But countries like Uruguay do achieve improvements in performance when use is more moderate: Uruguayan kids who use netbooks twice weekly gain an average of 30 points compared to their peers who do not use these technologies.

However, the report clarifies that the daily use of the computer at home itself promotes better learning. The more often you use the computer at home, they are also higher student academic performance: Argentinean students who use the computer at home obtained between 20 and 30 more points than their peers do not. In other words, new technologies are not producing better learning when used in the classroom, but access to these tools themselves is crucial for the education of children.


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