Education & Training 2020 – digital and online learning
exclusive competence of member states. However, there is still an EU policy designed to support action taken at a national level. This policy is enshrined in the Education and Training 2020 plan and helps member states address common challenges such as “ageing societies, skills deficits in the workforce, technological developments and global competition”.
The survey, which includes data from Malta, was prepared by the Danish Technological Institute on behalf of the European Commission (through the Working Group on Digital and Online Learning). The study specifically focuses on how technologies and ICT can bring innovation into teaching and learning environments in Europe. Moreover, the questions also focused on the current state of such policies in the respondents’ country of origin.
The results of the survey show that progress has been registered on the integration of digital and online technologies to improve teaching and learning processes as well as learning outcomes. However, for both national and regional level policy frameworks, the majority of the global survey respondents replied that there were no formulated policies at present (29% and 51% respectively). These two points mean that the progress has been limited. Another aspect included in the survey results is that it is “not surprising that governments have played a major role in stimulating the uptake of digital and online learning over time, in particular because of the major investments in infrastructure that are required also to ensure sufficient bandwidth”.
A salient result which emerged is that digital skills and digital online learning are intertwined. To quote the findings, developments in “bandwidth, hardware, software, digital content, and especially teachers’ skills and competences have resulted in digital and online learning developing from primarily being an add-on to existing educational practices (...) to now, when digital and online learning is gradually integrated into educational practices”.
This point is significant when one considers the spill-over effect that policies such as the Education and Training 2020 plan might carry on to other wider policies such as the Europe 2020 strategy and its targets for the education sector, apart from the achievement of a Digital Single Market (a policy under the European Single Market which covers aspects such as E-commerce). In fact, the Education and Training 2020 plan adds to other objectives included in other strategies.
Reducing the rates of early school leaving below 10% and reaching the level of at least 40% of 30 to 34-year-olds completing third level education can be addressed in the long run if digital and online educational standards are further enhanced, thus further developing the skills of European citizens within the educational system.
Furthermore, the Digital Agenda Scoreboard (measuring the progress towards a digital economy) shows that “limited access to high-speed broadband still constitutes a barrier to wider universal access to digital and online learning environments in some parts of Europe”.
Overall, the survey shows that there has been some progress in EU member states and beyond. Yet, “responses provided by the participants also suggest that there is still room for improvement in a range of areas that constitute key building blocks of a digitally competent educational institution”.
Continued support from the European Commission and the sharing of best practices between member states may ensure that these developments occur in the best possible way in order to further improve the educational system in Europe.
James Azzopardi, MEUSAC Executive