Computers and the Academic Performance of Elementary School-Aged Girls in China’s Poor Communities

Journal Article

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Computer & Education, Elsevier, Vol. 60

January 2013

computers education

Experts agree that computers and computing play an important role in education. Since the 1980s there has been a debate about gender as it relates to computers and education. However, results regarding gender differences concerning computer use in education are not consistent. In particular there is little work done in China on this issue. Therefore, the overall goal of this paper is to demonstrate whether girls and boys can gain equally from computer-based education in China’s elementary schools. To do so we analyze results from three randomized field experiments of a Computer Assisted Learning (CAL) program and one laptop per child (OLPC) program. The field experiments are carried out in three kinds of schools: Shannxi rural public schools; Qinghai minority public schools; and Beijing migrant schools. Although CAL and OLPC have been considered cost effective means to improve learning outcomes, it is not known whether the programs impact girls differently than boys. Our analysis shows that, in fact, there were no differences between female and male students in either the improvement in standardized math test scores or Chinese test scores with either the CAL or OLPC programs. Our study suggests that among disadvantaged students in China’s rural areas and migrant communities, there is reason to believe that computer based learning can benefit both girls and boys equally. This finding has possible implications for China’s ongoing efforts to integrate computers and computing technologies into the nation’s underserved schools.

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