– Two thirds of 10-year-olds have been given their own TVs and mobiles.

– Research among 4,000 pupils in England has linked them to markedly lower scores in reading test.

Children with TVs in their bedrooms and their own mobile phones suffer significant falls in reading achievement, a major international study showed yesterday.

Research among 4,000 pupils in England has linked ownership of TVs, DVD players and phone handsets to markedly lower scores in reading tests.

Two thirds of 10-year-olds have been given their own TVs, with similar proportions owning DVD players and mobile phones.

But youngsters who owned these gadgets lost on average at least 20 marks in a reading test given to children in 45 countries and provinces.

In contrast, owning a musical instrument was associated with a 30-mark boost in results.

A linked study found that teenagers who spend hours on social networking sites do significantly worse in science and maths tests.

The trends emerged in international research charting the performance of 10-year-olds in reading and 10 and 14-year-olds in maths and science.

Pupils in English primary schools improved their standing in global rankings of reading achievement, rising from 15th place in 2006 to 11th – a gain attributed to back-to-basics ‘phonics’ teaching.

But the number of weak readers remained high, with more than twice as many 10-year-olds ‘stuck at a very basic level’ compared with the US.

And England tumbled down a world science league of dozens of countries and failed to improve in maths.

Ten-year-olds slipped from 7th place to 15th in science after being leapfrogged by several nations including Hungary and the Czech and Slovak republics, while flatlining in maths, in 9th place.

Performance by 14-year-olds in both maths and science also stalled. Our teenagers were ranked tenth and ninth respectively.

East Asian countries including South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan dominated the upper reaches of the tables.

As well reporting achievement in key subjects, the studies paint a picture of the home and school environment in each country using detailed questionnaires given to pupils and teachers at the time of tests.

More than one in six English teenagers are being taught in maths or science classes that are severely disrupted by classroom troublemakers.

Responses from teachers revealed how 17 per cent of 14-year-olds are taught in classes where disruption affects lessons ‘a lot’.

Teachers also said pupils’ failure to get enough sleep at night affected significant numbers of lessons.

A minority suffered a lack of basic nutrition, which also impaired teaching.

It also emerged that more than a quarter of primary pupils and one in 10 secondary pupils reported being ‘hit or hurt’ for example by kicking or shoving within the last month.

And tens of thousands of pupils – up to eight per cent – are taught in secondary schools not considered by their teachers to be ‘safe and orderly’.

The studies were conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research in England, and overseen by academics in the US and Netherlands.

Part of the research asked pupils whether they had mobile phones, TVs or DVDs of their own.

The answers were compared with their performance in reading tests, where the average mark internationally was 500, and the highest 571.

‘There was a negative association between achievement on the PIRLS tests and ownership of the following items – your own mobile phone, your own television and your own DVD player,’ the study said.

‘In each case, pupils who reported possessing the item obtained, on average, a lower mean score (by more than 20 scale points) than those who did not possess the item.

‘Conversely, the 76 per cent of pupils who owned their own musical instrument scored an average of 31 scale points more than those who did not.’

Pupils with their own DVD player, for example, scored 542, against 569 among those who didn’t.

It also emerged that one in five 10-year-olds spends at least three hours a day watching TV and DVDs.

And 13 per cent of 14-year-olds reported using social networking sites for four hours or more on a normal school day. There was evidence that performance in science and maths declined as time spent on the sites increased.

Education Minister Elizabeth Truss welcomed news that more children were reading for pleasure than in 2006, when the study was last carried out.

But she warned of a ‘long tail’ of under-achievement in reading.

‘Our lowest performers are stuck at a very basic level, only able to find and reproduce information with explicit guidance,’ she said.

A sharper focus on phonics in schools would boost results further, she said.


By Laura Clark

Source: Daily Mail – http://goo.gl/3uGkI