EU launches digital skills action plan

Tibor Navracsics © Diarmuid Greene/Web Summit
Tibor Navracsics © Diarmuid Greene/Web Summit

The European Commission has proposed three initiatives to support the improvement of digital skills and education.

The initiatives proposed include a digital education plan, a Council of Europe recommendation on key competences, and a second recommendation on common values and inclusive education. These steps build upon informal discussions held between heads of state and government at the Gothenburg Social Summit in Sweden last November.

The new proposals will inform the first European Education Summit, which will be held next week (25 January). They will also act as the first step towards the commission’s ambitions for its European Education Area.

What did the Council of Europe recommend?

The first recommendation, on key competences for lifelong learning, reflects on the rapid evolution of teaching and learning. In it, the commission outlines steps to encourage young people to attain competences in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and pursue a career in these fields.

Other suggestions include urging Europe’s education systems to refocus on preparing for the emergence of innovative technologies, and to prepare learners for changing labour markets in more diverse mobile and digital societies.

In the second proposal, the council outlines its aim to educate young people in a way that will strengthen social cohesion, and combat populism, xenophobia and nationalism. It promotes good education for all, and establishes a European dimension to education so that children can learn about the bloc’s common heritage and diversity.

What did the commissioners say?

The commissioner for education, Tibor Navracsics, announced that the measures would introduce a more European focus to curricula. The proposals will educate citizens on their role in wider European society, he said: “Europe’s education and training systems need to give people from all backgrounds the right competences to progress and prosper professionally, but also enable them to be engaged citizens. We need to harness the potential of education to foster social cohesion and a sense of belonging.”

Navracsics continued that the new focus on shared culture and heritage would encourage citizens to “build on our common values and make sure that education enables pupils to experience their European identity in all its diversity, learn more about Europe, about other European countries and about themselves”.

Highlighting the new focus on digital education, the EU’s commissioner for the digital single market, Mariya Gabriel, warned that the demand for digital skills risks not being met as it grows. She explained: “The digital age is expanding into all areas of our lives, and it is not just those who work in IT that will need to be alert of the digital transformation. The digital skills gap is real. While already 90% of future jobs require some level of digital literacy, 44% of Europeans lack basic digital skills.”

The commission’s proposed digital education plan will seek to effectively address this and improve the digital skills of all citizens moving forward, she concluded.

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