Information and communication technologies (ICT) are not yet sufficiently present in Europe's education systems, and reforms must be introduced to adapt them to the technological changes sweeping through our societies. This is the main conclusion of a report adopted by the European Commission.
The report, entitled "The use of ICT to support innovation and lifelong learning for all - A report on progress", describes how the use of e-learning has developed in Europe since 2000. It assesses the impact of ICT on school and higher education, while taking other education sectors into account. It then draws conclusions for the next stage of using information technology in education and training, and identifies the challenges posed by the need for improving the quality and efficiency in Europe's education systems, and in particular for pedagogical, technological and organisational innovation.
The basic findings of the paper are:
- The impact of ICT on education and training is visible, but not as great as it could be. The extent to which businesses and public services have been transformed through ICT is not yet reflected in educational systems;
- Embedding ICT in education and training systems requires changes across the pedagogical, technological and organisational settings;
- The potential for ICT to help develop a 'learning continuum' between formal, informal and workplace learning is clear and has to be built upon.
Successful education depends increasingly on the confident, competent and innovative use of ICT. This was emphasised in the Recommendation of the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers concerning 'Key Competences for Lifelong Learning', published in December 2006. The Recommendation identifies eight Key Competences that every citizen should develop by the end of compulsory education. Of particular interest in the current context is Key Competence Number 4, 'Digital Competence', which involves the confident and critical use of information society technology for work, leisure and communication.
An inclusive and open approach is very important in view of the digital divide. On this basis, the Commission proposes, as a priority for its policy cooperation work with the Member States, to exploit fully the potential of information technology in educational systems and, concretely, the associated need for accompanying pedagogical, organisational and technological innovations, by:
- developing innovative learning approaches, including them in curricula and supporting them through teaching guidelines and teacher training;
- adapting assessment methods and quality standards to the actual learning needs in education systems, and exploiting innovative learning resources such as open educational resources;
- building on the widespread use of digital devices and tools as an opportunity to foster the creative and critical use of ICT for learning and teaching."