One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is a non-profit organization that prides itself on attempting to advance the education of disadvantaged children in poor/third-world countries. They do this by providing each child with a laptop. They don’t exactly give out Apple MacBook Pros to all these children, but they still do provide them with a “rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop,” according to their website. OLPC states that their “mission is to empower the world’s poorest children through education.” Ideally, one would think that providing a laptop for these children would impact their education in a positive manner. However, after a recent study, research finds that the kids that were provided with these laptops did no better than the students that didn’t have this opportunity when comparing their testing scores.
This research is kind of hard to swallow when it is taken into consideration that each of these laptops cost about $200 and about 2.5 million of them were given out to children in about 42 countries. The study was conducted by the Inter-American Development Fund in Latin America, which surveyed 319 public schools in Peru. It measured the students’ mathematical and language abilities approximately 15 months after they were given their laptops. They found that, even though the students with the laptops were using them frequently, their scores were about the same as those that were not provided laptops. Even harder to believe, the study found that “the laptop program did not affect attendance, time allocated to school activities or quality of instruction in class,” and it also showed that the reading habits of the students with a laptop had not increased, even though the laptops came pre-loaded with about 200 books.
Not all hope is lost, though, as the study did find one positive change in those that were provided with laptops. It turns out that the students with the laptops had better overall scores than their laptop-less peers when they were tested to measure their general cognitive skills. For academic achievement, as mentioned earlier, the tests specifically measure for math, language, and average academic achievement. The cognitive skills test consisted of a verbal fluency test, coding test, average cognitive skills, and a Raven’s Progressive Matrices test, which is a “leading global non-verbal measure of mental ability – minimizing the impact of language skills and cultural bias,” according to Pearson.
Apparently, the results of this study were not surprising at all, as other “one laptop per child” programs that have been instituted, at a lower scale though, have no yielded positive results either. It goes to show that a laptop really isn’t a tool that would instantly help students become more intelligent. It all depends on how the student uses the laptop, the instruction given by an apt teacher, motivation, and of course, many other factors that can be affecting the child’s learning process.