The Inequality of Digital Learning Among Students in Rich and Poor Countries

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 17:45
Oral Presentation
Josef MA, Academia Sinica, Taiwan
This paper sheds light on an increasingly important new form of inequality, popularly known as digital learning inequality (or the digital divide), by examining the socioeconomic differentials in Internet/online search skills for educating adolescents. Using data from the 2009 wave of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) across 42 countries, I examine how macro-structural forces like economic development, national investment in human capital, and income inequality affect inequalities in digital learning between students attending poor schools and those attending elite schools. Using three-level multilevel models, I estimate school-level and country-level determinants of the digital learning inequality among students from various socioeconomic backgrounds. To capture national-level indicators, I geocode a set of country-level factors from various publicly available sources, including the World Bank’s World Development Indicators database, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics database, and the World Income Inequality database.

Despite the fact that digital access in schools has been greatly improved in a wide range of countries, my research finds persistent between-school digital inequalities that are more pronounced in low-income countries. In affluent countries, however, digital technology in schools produces greater benefits when students attend resource-rich, elite schools rather than schools with a majority of low-income and disadvantaged students. I connect these findings with discussing the importance of school cultural processes and institutional settings (e.g., teacher expectations, administrative actions) from research on social stratification and inequality in explaining inequalities between poor schools and elite schools. I also discuss how globalization as well as the emergence of knowledge society may generate inequality in schools differently between rich versus poor countries.