6 Mar 2015

Video games may indicate academic ability

5:44 am on 6 March 2015

A new OECD report suggests some video-gaming is better than no video-gaming when it comes to teenagers' academic performance, but it depends what they are playing.

The report says boys are more likely than girls to play video games and to spend time on the computer and internet.

The report says boys are more likely than girls to play video games and to spend time on the computer and internet. Photo: 123RF

The report, The ABC of Gender Equality in Education, looks at why boys are more likely to be poor performers than girls, especially in reading, and why girls are less likely to be among the top students in maths and science.

The research is based on the OECD's three-yearly tests of 15-year-olds in reading, science and maths through the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

New Zealand's performance in the tests has been falling, and twice as many boys as girls are classified as poor readers.

The report says boys are more likely to be overall low achievers than girls for a variety of reasons which include:

  • Boys are more likely than girls to play video games.
  • Boys are more likely than girls to spend time on computers and the Internet.
  • Boys are less likely than girls to read outside of school for enjoyment.
  • Boys are less likely than girls to enjoy activities connected with reading.
  • Boys are less likely than girls to do homework.
  • Boys are more likely than girls to have negative attitudes towards school.
  • Boys are more likely than girls to arrive late for school.
  • Boys are less likely than girls to engage in school-related work out of intrinsic motivation.

The report shows a strong link between choice of reading material and reading performance.

Children who read fiction have PISA scores equivalent to half-a-year of schooling ahead of those who read comics and non-fiction, and a full year ahead of those who only read non-fiction.

It also reports mixed findings on the effect of computer-gaming on academic achievement.

PISA results show that students who play collaborative video games score about 20 points worse on PISA's reading, maths and science tests than those who do not play them, a difference equivalent to about six-months schooling.

But those who play single-player games score as much as 35 points better than those who do not, especially if they are not playing those games every day.

The report notes a strong connection between girls' performance in maths and science and their confidence in those subjects, particularly among high-performing students.

It shows the maths scores of New Zealand's highest-achieving girls would increase significantly if they were more confident about the subject.

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