School tablets ‘positive experience but under-utilised’ NAO survey finds

National Audit Office survey finds that government provided tablets employed for educational purposes are now under-utilised by a proportion of users

Photo: Ray Attard
Photo: Ray Attard

The results of a survey based on participating educators and parents by the National Audit Office has revealed that tablets employed for educational purposes are now under-utilised by a proportion of users.

Just under a quarter of replies from parents and educators indicated that the students do not take their tablets to school on a daily basis.

The NAO, which carried out the study, acknowledged the fact that 18.5% of participating parents indicated that the students are using the tablets at school on a daily basis. However, the survey shows that 20% of participating teachers who responded, use the tablet only when an activity is planned.

The NAO found that participating teachers said that tablets are mostly used for the main subjects, Maths, English and Maltese, however, these devices were used to a lesser extent for Science, Social Studies and Religion.

Additionally, 61.5% of participating educators are not using these devices on educational outings organised by the school. On the same lines, 83.7% of parents who responded indicated that the students do not make use of these tablets on family outings. Whilst the survey shows that almost half of the replies from parents and teachers indicated that students are using the tablets for home use, mainly for homework, reading or studying, almost another quarter of replies from parents and teachers indicated that the students are not using the tablets for home use.

“The ministry for education should look into the outcomes of the survey conducted by the NAO and widen the scope of its internal Quality Assurance Digital Technology reviews currently being undertaken, to investigate and monitor the utilisation of tablets (and the related apps), identify possible causes for under-utilisation and implement corrective action to address any issues identified,” the NAO said.

Some 15,750 tablets have been distributed among 96 schools.

When considering the outcomes of the surveys conducted by the NAO amongst teachers and parents, the overall view of the scheme was a positive one since over 70% of all respondents considered the tablets to have helped the students in their learning journey. “Additionally, the tablets provided educators with more engaging and innovative ways for delivering lesson content as well as an alternative to the half yearly examinations, for continuous student assessment,” the NAO said.

The audit also highlighted several issues for why tablets were being under-utilised and mentioned how students were not charging their tablet back home and that there were often some connectivity issues relating to the school network and Wi-Fi infrastructure, primarily in non-state schools.

The NAO also said that slow performance and battery issues often affected the use of tablets in schools. 

Tablet usage at home was varied and uneven. Maths and English apps were rated highly by both participating teachers and parents, however, apps for Maltese, Science, Social Studies and Religion, obtained lower ratings.

The audit was carried out to study the usage of tablets in State, Church and independent primary schools in the implementation of the One Tablet Per Child project.

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