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The European Commission (EC) is to unveil plans for improving ICT education across Europe in order to ensure future generations can provide the digital skills businesses will require and allow youngsters to create the next wave of innovative firms that shape the market.
Vice president of the EC Neelie Kroes said a lack of education, due to a shortage of skilled teachers and a lack of necessary equipment, is holding the region back.
“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,” she said.
“If we enable that there's a huge opportunity. Of course there are plenty of barriers: teachers unfamiliar or underequipped. Legal uncertainty on what you can use or share. Or even starting with the basics: in some countries, almost half the pupils don't even have internet at school.”
As a result she said that next week the EC would be “unveiling some proposals to open up education in Europe”.
V3 contacted the EC for more information on what these plans may be but had received no reply at the time of publication. However, Kroes' speech did give some indication that she is aware of the need to ensure teaching is improved to a higher level.
“It's not just about giving people a few lessons in how to use a computer – normally they know that already. It's not about just putting some computers in classrooms or giving your school a website. It's about ICT transforming teaching, just as is has transformed and disrupted so much else in our lives,” she said.
Kroes said ensuring enough skilled workers are available in Europe is vital for the future of the region, as businesses are crying out for digitally savvy youngsters.
“There are loads of jobs in the digital sector. More than can be filled at the moment. Jobs just waiting for the next generation with the right digital skills. Ensuring we fill them will be good for our workforce, and good for our economy,” she said.
Kroes also touched on her current favourite campaign to end roaming charges, by claiming that ensuring youngsters are not cut off by expensive fees is another vital change that is needed.
“The third thing young people want is to stay connected. Glued to their smartphones, they expect constant, continuous connectivity. Instant access to content seamlessly on any device: not having to switch it off to avoid a huge roaming bill abroad.’
Kroes added that by addressing these issues Europe could lead the way on technology innovation, helping the region become home to the next wave of innovative, market-leading companies.
“Once we led the world in ICT: why not any more? 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? I think they can. 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.”
Improving education is a key aspect of current government thinking in the UK too, with overhauls to teaching curriculums due to be introduced next year. The latest issue of the V3 Tablet App focuses on this too, and is available to download now, free of charge.