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Broadband access linked to improved achievement in schools

A new study of New Zealand primary students has revealed that access to ultra fast broadband (UFB) is improving achievement scores in schools.

The study, carried out by Motu Economic and Public Policy Research Trust, used the fact that schools gained access to UFB at different times to evaluate the effect on academic performance. 

“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 and by about 4,600 students across all the schools within our sample,” said Arthur Grimes, co-author of the study.

“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.”

The New Zealand government has spent more than $1 billion since 2008 developing a UFB network to prioritise school connections.

The data cannot identify the mechanism through which fibre broadband increases school performance.

“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,” said Dr Grimes.

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 UFB access.

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