European Commission Set To Modernise Education Through IT

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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‘Opening Up Education’ initiative will aim to equip young people with digital tools and skills

Next week, European Commissioner for Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes is set to launch ‘Opening Up Education’ – an initiative that will focus on remote, flexible learning and open educational resources available online.

The announcement was made at the FT-Telefonica Millennials Summit in Brussels on Thursday.

“It’s not about just putting some computers in classrooms or giving your school a website. It’s about ICT transforming teaching, just as it has transformed and disrupted so much else in our lives,” said Kroes.

In her speech at the event, the Commissioner also admitted that the recently announced ‘Connected Continent’ package was a compromise that left much to be desired, and invited people to sign the Start-Up Manifesto – a collection of ideas to encourage innovation in Europe.

Down with the kids

According to research by the European Commission, 90 percent of jobs in the region will need digital skills by 2020. At the same time, around half of Europe’s school students don’t get the ICT teaching, skills and equipment they need.

Kiselev Andrey Valerevich“The fact is ICT enables a whole new way of learning. Information is no longer locked up; there is an open world out there for all to explore. Open resources that enable a million different ways to learn. Teachers who are no longer gatekeepers, but guides,” said Kroes. “If we enable that there’s a huge opportunity.”

The Commissioner said there were plenty of barriers to a better level of ICT education, including unqualified teachers, lack of equipment and legal uncertainty around copyright. And these are exactly the issues which ‘Opening Up Education’ will be tackling.

During her speech, Kroes also reported on the success of the Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs – a EU programme to combat the shortage of IT professionals, launched in March.

Another project discussed at the event was Startup Europe – an initiative that resulted in the creation of the Start-Up Manifesto –a collection of 22 suggestions from technology experts, including Tech City CEO Joanna Shields, for making Europe “a better place to be for innovators”, which has already been signed 3,334 times.

“When people think of internet innovation, they think of Silicon Valley. It’s time they thought also of the vibrant start-up culture we have here in Europe. Giving it more recognition, and the right supporting resources,” said Kroes.

“Once we led the world in ICT: why not anymore? Why shouldn’t our people have hope in a digital future? Why shouldn’t Europe be the home of a vibrant digital culture, strong digital companies, and limitless digital creativity? Why shouldn’t the next Facebook, the next Google, the next Kickstarter be European?

“We have the tools, we have the technology, we definitely have the talent.  And in a connected continent there is no limit to our ambitions.”

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