European Commission Announces IT-Based Education Initiatives

Sep 23, 2013

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There are many changes coming to EU education if European Commissioner for Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes has anything to say about it. Kroes took the occasion of last week's FT-Telefonica Millennials Summit in Brussels to announce a brand-new initiative focusing on transforming education by incorporating it with IT services. The commissioner believes ICT-based education is sorely lacking all across Europe, leaving European students behind as the rest of the world advances. She says the only way to change things is to transform the educational paradigm in a way that provides children the ICT education they need. “It’s not about just putting some computers in classrooms or giving your school a website,” she told the assembled conference.  “It’s about ICT transforming teaching, just as it has transformed and disrupted so much else in our lives.” If nothing else, the commissioner's words made it clear that she is not happy with current educational standards or recent initiatives designed to improve them. She specifically named the Connected Continent program, which she claims is a compromise program offering very little value. Kroes believes the European Commission's Opening Up Education initiative is far better. Opening Up Education will focus on remote and flexible learning options designed to increase the number of educational resources available to students. Part of the initiative will also focus on making sure teachers have the ICT knowledge they need to be effective educators as, without effective teachers, the entire plan is unlikely to be successful.

The Changing World

The primary driving force behind the European Commission's agenda is the belief that by 2020, 90% of Europe's jobs will require some level of digital skills; skills today's students are lacking. The commission says half of the students in Europe's schools currently do not get sufficient ICT education, if any at all. The new initiative aims to change that by providing both instruction and equipment. A companion initiative known as Startup Europe has already begun to transform the way Europe's businesses look at education. An offshoot of that initiative is the Start-Up Manifesto, a collection of suggestions intended to make Europe a place of constant innovation. Company CEOs and technology experts alike, to the tune of 3,334 individuals, have signed up to the manifesto. If the power to prepare Europe's students to work in the digital world rests in education and business initiatives like Opening Up Education and Startup Europe, we would expect to see measurable results from them in the near future. In the absence of those results, Europe will need to re-think its views on education. It may turn out that these initiatives are just what are needed for a smarter, better educated and more productive Europe. However, if they're not, we must be willing to immediately set them aside in favour of other strategies already proven to work. It is important that Europe does not allow idealism and politics to cloud reality. To do so would be a disservice to our children and all of Europe.