Canberra's schoolchildren have emerged as the nation's most digitally literate students in a major survey, outperforming every other state and territory.
The capital's children were second only to South Korea in the survey of 19 developed nations, according to a report by the Australian Council for Educational Research.
The research examined the ability of more than 104,000 15-year-olds including about 14,000 in 353 Australian schools on their ability to engage with digital texts.
The survey found students in every state and territory performing much better in digital literacy than in traditional print literacy. The study also found sharp differences in performance standards across regional, and social and economic lines.
The average digital reading literacy performance of students in private schools was better than that of students in the Catholic schools, who in turn scored significantly better than students in government schools. Children in metropolitan areas performed significantly better than students in provincial schools who fared much better than students from remote area schools.
The average digital reading literacy performance of non-indigenous students was significantly better than that of indigenous students.
Students from higher socio-economic backgrounds achieved significantly better scores than their counterparts from poorer families.
The researchers gave Canberra children a mean score of 547, the best in Australian but still lagging behind South Korean youngsters who achieved a score of 568.
Professor of Education at the University of Canberra's INSPIRE Centre, Rob Fitzgerald, said the results were encouraging for the ACT's education system but showed there were inequities in the access to technology provided by Australian children. ''It's a sign that Canberra is moving quickly towards being a digital city with a great education system,'' Professor Fitzgerald said.
''It's another reminder though that there are inequities around access to technology and it's a reminder that the benefits of the ICT revolution are not evenly spread.
''So it's important that we think about how we provide good access to technology for our children.''
The academic also warned that schools should not lose sight of the cultural and social effects of the increased presence of digital technology in the lives of children
''This is not just a technical revolution, this is also a social revolution in the way we engage with other people through ICTs,'' Professor Fitzgerald said.
ACT Education Minister Chris Bourke seized upon the report yesterday as proof that the government's digital education strategies were having an effect and that on some measures, Canberra had outperformed South Korea.
''A higher proportion of Canberra students achieved the maximum level of proficiency in digital reading, greater than the proportion achieving the same level in South Korea,'' Dr Bourke said.
''Under our Smart Schools, Smart Students initiative the ACT Labor government has invested strongly in computers and communications technology in ACT public schools. ''We have provided a high-speed optical fibre network to all ACT public schools, interactive whiteboards and computers to primary schools and are providing an ever-growing range of array of tools and services for students to access digital content.''