Singapore students are 'new-media savvy': NIE study

Radin Mas Primary's School pupils.
Radin Mas Primary's School pupils. PHOTO: ST FILE

Literacy levels improve a lot in upper primary but they start to plateau in secondary: Study

Students here are well versed in new media, from creating their own content online to reading forum posts, and they start to learn these skills in the upper primary levels, according to a three-year study by the National Institute of Education.

Associate Professor Victor Chen, who headed the study, aimed to find out how capable students are in handling new media.

"This was a broader study than previous studies, as those focused on functional aspects of digital literacy such as whether we have access," he said.

"Our study looked at the critical aspect of literacy, how well they use resources and how responsible they are in participating in such (new media) activities."

New media literacy refers to the ability to assess new media content critically, including recognising misinformation. The study found that the more time students spent online, the higher their literacy levels. Students in the study spent between under five and 30 hours a week online.

Commenting on this, Prof Chen likened new media to a new language. Higher exposure meant higher literacy in it.

INSEPARABLE

The new-media space allows more grassroots voices to emerge. We cannot neglect it anymore as everyone is participating actively.

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR VICTOR CHEN, who headed a study on how capable students are in handling new media

New media literacy levels were found to improve greatly from Primary 4 to 6, but they started to plateau in secondary school.

Those from families with a higher socio-economic status, going by their housing types - larger Housing Board flats and landed property - also fared better.

Commenting, Prof Chen said: "If families can afford better learning resources, the children also have more opportunity and access."

More than 4,500 students took part in an online survey of 60 questions in 2012.

The students came from 30 primary schools, 22 secondary schools and three junior colleges, although the results from the junior college set were not analysed because of the small sample size.

Students were posed questions such as how often they shared website links, uploaded content or posted video clips on the Internet.

They were also asked how often they shopped online and if they could discern and evaluate messages or values found online.

Prof Chen said the new media study was significant as social media platforms become inseparable from people's lives.

The NIE educator said: "The new media space allows more grassroots voices to emerge. We cannot neglect it any more as everyone is participating actively."

Madam Lee Hui Ling, a part-time operations manager in her 40s, said her Secondary 1 and 3 daughters started getting tech-savvy in their upper primary years, with Facebook and Instagram.

"They were curious as their friends were also starting to use social media and mobile phones," she said, adding that they also began shopping online in secondary school, although they do not use Facebook as much now.

"Perhaps they just got bored of it, and now their main way of communicating with friends is through WhatsApp and Instagram."

Still, she reminds her daughters to be careful about what they post online and how they interpret content in the Internet space.

"I tell them to try to be critical of what they read and see, and not take them at face value."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 03, 2015, with the headline 'S'pore students 'new-media savvy''. Print Edition | Subscribe