Leading article: OK computer

The conventional wisdom is that, when it comes to education, the old ways are the best. In many minds that equates to learning by rote, long hand, fat textbooks, and most definitely no computers. But, as with much conventional wisdom, such theories do not stand up too well to close scrutiny.

A study of 1,000 primary school pupils conducted by researchers at Durham University has discovered that those who studied French through lessons delivered via a CD-Rom progressed more rapidly that those who learned with the support of a traditional textbook. It seems that the smart tuition techniques and attractive visual content of the CD-Roms can make a considerable difference to a child's ability to absorb a new tongue. This is good news for ministers who have committed themselves to getting every pupil to study a foreign language by the age of seven.

Not only does this study indicate that British youngsters are more than capable of learning a new language, despite the mono-glot reputation of these islands; it suggests a way for schools to increase their foreign language provision despite a shortage of qualified language teachers. That is not to argue that schools should begin to transfer teaching duties en masse to CD-Roms. But it does suggest that computers can be a valuable aide in the classroom and that to spurn their deployment in the name of tradition would be entirely self-defeating.

And spare a thought for the pupils too: CD-Roms are much easier to carry home than chunky textbooks. Sometimes, technology means progress on every front.