More than 60% of nine year olds in the EU are in schools which are still not digitally equipped. The European Commission unveiled 'Opening up Education', an action plan on 25 September 2013 to tackle this and other digital problems which are hampering schools and universities from delivering high quality education and the digital skills which 90% of jobs will require by 2020. To help kick-off the initiative, the Commission launched a new website, Open Education Europa, which will allow students, practitioners and educational institutions to share free-to-use open educational resources.
Higher education also faces a digital challenge: with the number of EU students set to rise significantly in the next decade, universities need to adapt traditional teaching methods and offer a mix of face-to-face and online learning possibilities, such as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), which allow individuals toaccess education anywhere, anytime and through any device. But many universities are not ready for this change.
A joint initiative led by Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, and Neelie Kroes, Commission Vice-President, responsible for the Digital Agenda, Opening up Education focuses on three main areas:
- Creating opportunities for organisations, teachers and learners to innovate;
- Increased use of Open Educational Resources (OER), ensuring that educational materials produced with public funding are available to all; and
- Better ICT infrastructure and connectivity in schools.
"The education landscape is changing dramatically, from school to university and beyond: open technology-based education will soon be a 'must have', not just a 'good-to-have', for all ages. We need to do more to ensure that young people especially are equipped with the digital skills they need for their future. It's not enough to understand how to use an app or program; we need youngsters who can create their own programs. Opening up Education is about opening minds to new learning methods so that our people are more employable, creative, innovative and entrepreneurial," said Commissioner Vassiliou.
Vice-President Kroes added: "My dream is to have every classroom digital by 2020. Education must be connected to real life; it cannot be a parallel universe. Young people want to use digital technology in every aspect of life. They need digital skills to get jobs. All of our schools and universities, not just some of them, must reflect that reality."
Initiatives linked to Opening up Education will be funded with support from Erasmus+, the new EU programme for education, training, youth and sport, and Horizon 2020, the new research and innovation programme, as well as the EU structural funds. For example, Erasmus+ will offer funding to education providers to ensure business models are adapted to technological change and to support teachers’ development through open online courses. All educational materials supported by Erasmus+ will be freely available to the public under open licences.
We are living in connected societies, where more and more people of all ages use digital technologies in their everyday lives. However, when many children go to school, they enter a system that doesn't reflect this everyday reality.
The online world is changing how education is resourced, delivered and enjoyed. Over the next 10 years, the e-Learning market is projected by some to grow fifteen-fold, accounting for 30% of the whole education market. The benefits of these developments should be available to all Europeans.
This transformation should be shaped by educators and policy-makers, rather than something that simply happens to them.
A recent survey of the use of ICT in schools found that only one-in-four 9 year olds study at a 'highly digitally-equipped school' – with recent equipment, fast broadband (10mbps plus) and high 'connectivity' (website, email for students and teachers, local area network, virtual learning environment). Only half of 16 year olds are in such 'highly digitally-equipped schools' and 20% of secondary students have never or almost never used a computer in their school lessons.
The impact of Opening up Education will be boosted by recommendations due to be published next summer by the high level group for the modernisation of higher education. The group, launched by Commissioner Vassiliou and chaired by Ireland’s former President, Mary McAleese, is currently assessing how higher education can make best use of new modes of teaching and learning.
This initiative also ties in with the Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs, a multi-stakeholder platform tackling the lack of ICT skills and up to 900,000 unfilled ICT-related vacancies.
For more information
MEMO/13/813 Opening up Education – Frequently Asked Questions
Communication on 'Opening up Education: Innovative teaching and learning for all through new Technologies and Open Educational Resources'
Staff Working Document 'Analysis and mapping of innovative teaching and learning for all through new Technologies and Open Educational Resources in Europe'
European Commission: Education and training
Twitter @VassiliouEU and @NeelieKroesEU
Press release of the European Commission
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