Digital distraction affects not just Finnish youth

Digital distraction and the pervasive use of the Internet influence the reading comprehension of our young ("What's behind Finland's Pisa slide"; Dec 12).

This applies universally across the board for all cultures, and not only for the Finns.

The ubiquity of handheld devices and the almost unlimited content available make self-control by young students difficult.

When the Pokemon Go craze was at its peak, Singaporeans of all ages and persuasions could be seen glued to their smartphones for hours, engaged in a mindless search across the island for mythical entities - an endeavour which adds not an iota to intellectual development.

Yet Singapore is assessed to have topped the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa).

Of course, countries sliding down the Pisa performance index need not use it as a trigger for education reforms. But in the face of global competition for talent and investments, any gap in basic educational skills exposes a weakness in critical thinking that will affect the job prospects for students of all nationalities in a world without borders.

Singapore's results come from a formula consisting of an emphasis on the importance of learning, a purposefully large education budget, a systemically effective pedagogy and a dedicated teaching workforce.

Yik Keng Yeong (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2016, with the headline 'Digital distraction affects not just Finnish youth'. Print Edition | Subscribe