The International Computer and Information Literacy Study (ICILS) is a new international study whose purpose is to assess the extent to which students know about, understand, and are able to use information and communications technology (ICT). The target population for ICILS is Grade 8 students, and the mean age at the time of testing is at least 13.5 years old. This study is carried out under the aegis of the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), and in Canada, the participation of provinces is coordinated by the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC).


In the ICILS context, computer and information literacy (CIL) is defined as “… an individual's ability to use computers to investigate, create, and communicate in order to participate effectively at home, at school, in the workplace, and in the community.”

ICILS focuses on two strands, with three aspects in the first one and four in the second:

Strand one: Collecting and managing information

  1. Knowing about and understanding computer use
  2. Accessing and evaluating information
  3. Managing information

Strand two: Producing and exchanging information

  1. Transforming information
  2. Creating information
  3. Sharing information
  4. Using information safely and securely

In 2013, the administration of ICILS was conducted exclusively on computer. Student data were collected from the assessment (two 30-minute modules). Students also completed an on-line questionnaire that gathered information about their background characteristics and experience and attitudes toward computer use and ICT. The teacher questionnaire collected information on their background characteristics, the use of ICT in teaching, and their attitudes about ICT use in teaching and learning. The school questionnaire concerned school characteristics and school approaches in the use of ICT in teaching and learning. The questionnaire for ICT coordinators asked about ICT in schools, particularly the resources and support available for its use.


The first administration of ICILS took place in 2013. Twenty countries from around the world participated; in Canada, only Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador participated in ICILS 2013. Schools, as well as students and teachers within schools, were selected for participation at random. In Canada, the assessment was conducted in either English or in French.

ICILS results

The results of the ICILS assessment are valid at the provincial level. No results are attributed to individual students or schools, as ICILS data are generally used for program monitoring and research purposes.

Highlights of the ICILS 2013 results include:

  • No country had a significantly higher achievement than Ontario. Newfoundland and Labrador outperformed close to three quarters of participating countries/regions.
  • The percentage of students achieving the highest levels of proficiency for both Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador is higher than the average percentage of students across all other participating countries.
  • Girls performed significantly better than boys in Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador as well as in most participating countries.
  • In Ontario, students enrolled in the English majority-language school system performed better than students enrolled in the French minority-language system.
  • In Ontario, there is a significant difference in the results between students with at least one parent born in Canada and students with both parents born in another country.
  • In both provinces, students whose parents are in the highest occupational status category performed better than students whose parents are in the lowest category.
  • In Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador, students are more confident in doing basic computer tasks when compared to the international average.
  • Teachers in both provinces have a more positive opinion about the value of using ICT for teaching and learning than teachers in other participating countries on average.

Some of the ICILS 2013 assessment items administered to Grade 8 students in all participating countries and/or jurisdictions have been released to the public. These can be found in the ICILS 2013 international report, Preparing for Life in a Digital Age: The IEA International Computer and Information Literacy Study International Report, or in the report for participating provinces, Preparing for Life in a Digital Age: Results for Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador.