Australia is facing a crisis of computer literacy after the latest national IT tests showed a sharp drop in results among school students.
NSW students were among the worst performers in the country, falling behind Victoria, South Australia and the ACT, according to the report released by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority on Tuesday.
The NAP-ICT tests, which have been taken by more than 10,000 students every three years since 2005, ask students to perform basic practical tasks such as "creating a new email folder on a webmail account" or open "a hyperlink in a separate tab."
"The purpose is not to measure whether, you can be an IT tech, it's whether you can use technology in [day to day work]" ACARA's general manager of assessment and reporting, Dr Stanley Rabinowitz said.
As the pace of technological innovation around the world continues unabated, Australia risks being left behind, the ACARA results reveal.
Nationally only 55 per cent of students were considered IT proficient.
The report shows a significant decline in the mean performance of Year 6 students in 2014, by 22 scale points compared to the last assessment in 2011 while year 10 performance dropped by 39 points compared to previous computer literacy assessments.
"The decline of these results is of concern" ACARA's chief executive officer Robert Randall said.
"We don't think the standard has been set too high, the proficiency standard is challenging but we are confident it is atttainable."
Victoria out-performed NSW by 25 points, a significant gap overall, while up to 10 per cent more Victorian year 6 students reached the proficiency standard.
The results come despite up to 98 per cent of students reporting that they had access to a computer at home.
"One of the things that we are observing here is that the increased use of devices for social and communication purposes has hidden the decline in the use of more sophisticated uses of the devices," Mr Randall said.
"You can't just assume that just because kids are using devices that they are learning these more sophisticated skills.
"Those skills have to be taught, they are not just caught."
The chair of the Council of Australian Governments Education Council, Queensland MP Kate Jones, said that the report showed there had to be a renewed focus on teaching digital technologies in schools.
"There is a risk that, as students increase their use of digital technology, assumptions will be made about their level of ICT expertise and knowledge," she said.
The report recommended an urgent need for explicit teaching across the nation's schools if the trend is to be reversed.
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