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Print’s Crucial Role in Education


In response to the recently published results of the 2022 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) by the OECD, Intergraf released a statement. (Intergraf is a European graphic industry association). They called for a balanced approach to education, emphasizing the importance of retaining print materials in the learning process. 

The PISA 2022 results show a significant decline in reading – equivalent to half a year’s worth of learning. While the Covid-19 pandemic could be a factor contributing to this decline, trend analysis reveals pre-pandemic declines in reading performance, thus indicating a long-term problem. Past data indicates that excessive use or misuse of digital devices correlates with lower academic scores.  

45% of students experience anxiety without digital devices, impacting life satisfaction and stress resistance. Notably, excessive time spent on digital devices for learning activities is associated with lower math scores. A reading professor from Norway has highlighted a robust correlation between reading long, linear texts in print and better reading skills. Moreover, she discussed the adverse effects of screens on reading comprehension. These findings are supported by the results of 54 experiments involving 170,000 participants. They consistently show a significant advantage for paper-based reading, particularly with informational texts.

Research suggests (Delgado et al. 2018: PISA 2022) that digital environments are less conducive to fostering deep comprehension, whereas paper-based reading offers a more substantial advantage in situations demanding increased mental effort, such as reading under time pressure or tackling complex texts. Screen reading tends to prompt, fast and shallow processing, while reading in print better supports in-depth reading. Thus, research points to negative correlations between digital reading and overall reading skills. Intergraf calls for a broader consideration of the impact of digital devices on comprehension and skill development.

Considering concerns about declining basic literacy skills linked to digitalization in education, Intergraf strongly supports Sweden’s recent initiative to shift its education focus from digital devices to printed textbooks.Sweden is aiming to provide one book per student per subject in primary schools.

There has been an unprecedented drop in literacy for reading, maths and science. As print offers distinct advantages in terms of concentration, comprehension, retention, and development of deep reading skills, it is essential to recognize print books as an integral and enduring component of education in schools. 

Pablo Delgado, Cristina Vargas, Rakefet Ackerman, Ladislao Salmerón, Don’t throw away your printed books: A meta-analysis on the effects of reading media on reading comprehension, Educational Research Review, Volume 25, 2018, Pages 23-38, ISSN 1747-938X, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1747938X18300101.

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