INTERNATIONAL education experts have called for pupils to spend less time on their mobile phones in order to improve school standards across Scotland.

The International Council of Education Advisers (ICEA) has pointed to a switch-off after meeting with the Scottish Government this week.

Prof Pasi Sahlberg was addressing Scotland’s performance in the PISA rankings which have worsened in science and maths but improved in reading.

He said that the first way to address the failing is to ask “why the young people are not doing any better in these tests that they should do or they used to do”.

He added: “One of those things is related to this technology that the kids have. The average teenager or even in primary school, spends anything from seven to 11 hours a day with all kinds of stuff that they have access to using the technology.

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“My question is, what are these kids not doing when are taking so much time to do all sorts of things with the media and technology. One of the things they don’t do is take the time to pay attention to what’s happening in the school and they don’t sleep as they used to.

“There’s no question about whether this has a negative influence on young boys’ and girls’ ability to learn in school. It’s making learning in the school complicated and difficult. If we really would like to put Scotland back on an improving course in PISA, we can fix this problematic media that is used. We could probably see improvements much faster than any other thing.”

Overall, ICEA said that the Scottish education system was making “steady improvement” and that it’s in a “strong place”.

Prof Alma Harris added: “What we wouldn’t want to see is huge peaks because normally huge troughs follow.

“It has all the right components and is investing in the right places. We are not seeing that huge leap in performance, but what we are seeing in incremental growth.”

The experts have also welcomed proposals to introduce a counsellor to every school.

Prof Harris added: “If a child comes to school anxious or upset or hungry, it’s almost impossible for them to learn. Any mental health or wellbeing issues are barriers to learning.

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“Anything that alleviates those barriers to learning will get us closer to increasing improvement and attainment in Scottish schools.”

The organisation also welcomed a review into the Scottish Government’s Curriculum for Excellence programme. But ICEA warned that it shouldn’t be used as “a review that is seeking criticism or blackspots”.

Prof Harris added: “I think that reviewing and evaluating policies are probably a good thing. I think that a curriculum review might be helpful in actually signalling when improvements might occur.

“Curriculum for Excellence has been a major part of Scottish education for many years and therefore a review is timely. I think there are other things within the system that we could be focusing on.”