Original publication: August 2018
Authors: Justina Vaikutytė-Paškauskė, Justina Vaičiukynaitė, Donatas Pocius
Short link to this post: http://bit.ly/2QjKrT3
The European Commission released a Digital Education Action Plan and a Staff Working Document setting out how education and training systems can make better use of innovation and digital technology and support the development of relevant digital competences (European Commission 2018b).
Based on literature and policy review, this study aims to provide Members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education (CULT) with analysis and recommendations on digital skills in the 21st century and an adequate EU policy response to contemporary challenges as set out in the Digital Education Action Plan and the Staff Working Document.
Key findings and recommendations
The Action Plan identifies low connectivity as one of the main obstacles to uptake of digital tools. The Action Plan proposes to support connectivity in rural areas through the EU network of Broadband Competence Offices (BCOs) and calls for action in raising awareness of the benefits of broadband and funding opportunities specifically for schools.
The Action Plan stresses the need for more digitally competent educators and education institutions. The document suggests the SELFIE self-assessment tool as the main policy initiative to increase the digital readiness of general and vocational schools and a mentoring scheme at national/regional level, supported by an EU-level awareness-raising platform.
- Recommendation: The CULT Committee could recommend that the Commission further supports the Member States through strengthening evidence base for education reform. For the next programming period, the Commission may consider setting digital education benchmarks for different levels of education.
The current copyright framework on digitally supported education and training practices still causes uncertainty among users and copyright holders due to low awareness about copyright and different national interpretations of the EU copyright rules.
- Recommendation: The CULT Committee may recommend that the Commission considers an awareness raising campaign and an online information platform that would help education institutions, educators and students overcome copyright uncertainty.
Digital services for mobile students are still scarce meaning that sending and receiving institutions are not able to share necessary student information between them. The Action Plan proposes to provide a framework for issuing digitally-certified qualifications and validating digitally-acquired skills.
- Recommendation: The CULT Committee could recommend that the Commission initiates a discussion on the potential governance model for the framework of digitally certified qualifications in order to divide responsibilities between institutions and organisations that would be responsible for the development, implementation, and monitoring of such framework.
- Recommendation: Building common data exchange and storage standards and templates should remain a priority while developing the framework for issuing digitally-certified qualifications and validating digitally-acquired skills. Clear guidelines, financial and peer support mechanisms should be provided to education institutions in order to facilitate successful transition from paper-based to digitally certified qualifications.
The Digital Education Action Plan warns that Europe will lose its competitiveness if education fails to provide digital competences to Europeans of all ages. To improve digital skills of the European population the Action Plan proposes to create a Europe-wide platform for digital higher education and enhanced cooperation. The Plan, however, provides little information on how this platform would function. The document also suggests strengthening open science and citizen science and scaling up the EU Code Week.
- Recommendation: Responses from the main potential higher education hub’s stakeholders indicate the need to further explore the added value of such platform. The CULT Committee could recommend that the Commission facilitates discussions with the higher education sector on how to build a useful tool for peer-exchange and collaboration.
- Recommendation: The Committee on Culture and Education could recommend that the Commission explores the suggested platform’s synergies with already existing initiatives that encourage cooperation between European higher education institutions, namely the Erasmus+ programme.
The Digital Education Action Plan stresses the need to strengthen critical thinking and media literacy among children and young people. The Action Plan suggests an EU-wide awareness-raising campaign targeting educators, parents and learners to foster online safety, cyber hygiene and media literacy and a blended course on cyber-security.
The Digital Education Action Plan recognises lack of interest among girls to pursue studies in ICT or STEM as a clear problem leading to lost opportunities and risks contributing to gender inequality. The Digital Education Action Plan suggests that the Commission will support measures to further decrease the gender gap in the technology.
- Recommendation: The CULT Committee may recommend that the Commission provides a strategic policy framework on increasing female participation in ICT and STEM and develops a clear roadmap for the planned actions such as workshops and stakeholder inclusion mechanisms.
- Recommendation: The Committee on Culture and Education could recommend that the Commission further explores synergies with already established grassroots platforms such as the EU Code Week which could be used as a powerful tool to raise awareness about gender stereotypes in technology sector among schools, educators, companies and NGOs.
The Digital Education Action Plan draws attention to a lack of coherent cross-European data that could be used to improve education systems through evidence-based policy-making. To address this issue, the Action Plan calls to build evidence on the uptake of ICT and digital skills in schools by publishing a reference study assessing progress in mainstreaming ICT in education (ESSIE2) and collaborating with the OECD to develop a new module in PISA focusing specifically on the use of technology in education. The Digital Education Action Plan also considers exploring relevance and feasibility of new Council benchmarks for digital competences and entrepreneurship.
The Action Plan asserts that big data for policy making and learning analytics could bring significant added value to education. The document therefore calls for artificial intelligence and learning analytics pilots that could contribute to improving implementation and monitoring of education policy.
- Recommendation: The CULT Committee could recommend the Commission to follow the action plan on learning analytics suggested by the JRC (JRC 2017), and 1) define the role and policy priorities for learning analytics in the context of education; 2) develop a learning analytics roadmap that would support the development of tools and practices; 3) identify organisations and individuals who would be responsible for coordinating the learning analytics roadmap and stakeholder cooperation at EU and national level.
To initiate strategic foresight in education the Action Plan proposes to release a series of policy, research and guidance papers analysing the impact and potential of digital technologies in education. The Action Plan also proposes to organise an EU-wide education hackathon.
Link to the full study: http://bit.ly/617-495
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