Study finds fibre to schools lifts student performance

A study from Motu Economic and Public Policy Research Trust, sponsored by Huawei, claims to have shown that fibre broadband services to schools boosts academic achievement by about one percentage point.

The study exploited differences in the timing of broadband availability to study the effects of broadband provision on student learning as measured by New Zealand’s National Standards. It found “fibre broadband increases primary schools’ passing rates in standardised assessments by roughly one percentage point.”

Because there were fewer data points for secondary schools, the study found no evidence for fibre broadband affecting overall National Certificate of Educational Achievement pass rates. However, it said there was evidence that level one numeracy pass rates were lifted as a result of fibre broadband access.

According to Motu, “These estimates are very precise, with standard errors equal to roughly three percent of a standard deviation.”

Motu added: “We find no evidence that either gender benefitted disproportionately. There is no evidence that Māori or Pasifika students benefited more than other students, although there is some evidence that students in low-socioeconomic schools benefited more than others.”

Motu said it was unable to identify the mechanism through which fibre broadband increases school performance.

Arthur Grimes, senior fellow at Motu and co-author of the study, said: “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.”

Motu said its finding were at odds with those from similar studies overseas. “Our positive results contrast with the international literature which has either failed to find significant effects or has found significant effects which are negative,” it said.

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