The federal government is leaning on the nation’s schools to impose an immediate ban on school students using mobile phones in classrooms.
Education minister Dan Tehan on Friday met with state and territory counterparts to convince them that prohibiting phones during class could help combat cyberbullying, anxiety and depression among young people.
There are also academic benefits.
Evidence from Canada has found that banning mobile phones in schools could increase performance by six per cent, which is the equivalent to one hour a week, or five days a year, the minister told reporters in Melbourne.
For low performing students, data showed there was an increase in test scores when mobile phones were removed, but removing phones did not make a difference for high-achieving students, Carleton University professor Louis-Philippe Beland said .
Some low-achieving students had a 14 per cent increase in productivity when phone usage was regulated, he noted.
Mr Tehan welcomed Victoria’s decision to introduce a phone ban in state schools from next year, but he encouraged other states and territories to act now.
“What we’re seeing is clear feedback that these bans work. I think it is so important that we need to see leadership from government. I would like to see other states and territories follow Victoria’s lead on this,” He said.
While the minister is pushing for a national ban, he said states and territories need to liaise with school principals to finalise the approach.
“What the Commonwealth wants to do is provide the leadership and assistance to state and territories to make the right decision in this regard,” he said
Australia’s controversial NAPLAN school testing system was also discussed at Friday’s meeting. Mr Tehan said he wasn’t impressed by the NSW and Queensland governments’ stance on the issue, arguing the states should concentrate on improving outcomes.
“We’ve sadly seen a flatlining in the improvement of the performance of students, so rather than blaming NAPLAN for that, what we need to be doing is addressing what is going wrong.”
The Australian Education Union said Mr Tehan should not overlook widespread complaints about NAPLAN.
“That school authorities with a combined responsibility for more than three quarters of all students in Australia acknowledge the problem with NAPLAN, when Mr Tehan does not, is a source of embarrassment for the Morrison government,” union president Correna Haythorpe said in a statement.