Digital Education at European and National Levels. Cases from the European Union and Germany

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At the end of 2022, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen presented her idea to make 2023 the ‘European Year of Skills’, which would also cover digital skills. This is the key political priority set by the European Commission President, who aims to contribute to making Europe fit for the digital age. The need to have such a year dedicated to skills and their development comes from the difficulties to find workers who would have appropriate skill sets, as currently more than three-quarters of companies in the EU report struggle of finding workers with such expertise and skills. This lack of experienced and skilled staff availability is considered to be the most important problem by one-quarter of SMEs. However, how does the lack of digital skills affect the situation?

According to the 2021 Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), 44% of people in the EU and a third of Europe’s workforce encounter a problem, which could be called the lack of basic digital skills. In addition to the 44% of European citizens, which do not have basic digital skills, what is important is that 35% of workers do not have basic digital skills, while 1 million digital experts are missing. Situation is better in Western European countries, for example, in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Ireland, and the Nordics (Iceland, Norway, Finland, Denmark, etc.), while the situation seems to be worse in Central and Eastern European member states (Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, Slovenia, etc.).

The situation could be improved not only in the member states in Central and Eastern Europe, but also in some Southern European countries, as well as in Germany. In the case of Germany, the situation could be better explained with reference to the survey “Corona Pandemic and Vocational Training”, which was developed and carried out by three JOBSTARTER plus projects from Berlin and sent nationwide to 844 local companies from May 12th till July 31st of 2020. According to the survey(How the corona pandemic is changing vocational training: Results of the JOBSTARTER survey – BMBF Jobstarter):

  • “… 20% of the companies surveyed have begun to convey the contents of the company-based training plan using digital tools such as online seminars.
  • “The answers given by companies indicate that digitalisation in vocational schools is comparable to digitalisation in mainstream schools. In some cases, vocational schools began to offer digital learning opportunities before the pandemic and expanded this due to the pandemic. For example, 33% of trainees were able to learn together with the help of online lessons during school closures.”
  • “However, digitization does not yet seem to be very advanced across the board, even in vocational schools. 53% of the trainees only received tasks from their vocational school by email or post during the school closure for processing. 7% of the trainees were neither given tasks nor were they able to use digital tools to impart knowledge.”
  • “The corona pandemic is partly changing the support needs of companies: they would like to see more tips on financial aid for training (30% of respondents) and information on the use of digital tools in training (19%). However, assistance with the acquisition of trainees (33%) and training marketing (14%) remains in demand – all topics on which the projects had already advised before the pandemic.”

As the conducted analysis on the EU and national (of Germany) levels have shown, the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed the lack of digital skills which is very much relevant in the case of Germany and even beyond (on the EU level), though the digitization process in education has been on its rise for the past couple years. In order to contribute to economic and societal growth currently we experience with technological advancements in society and business, we need a wider range of adequate digital skills and a better understanding of data. This digital skills gap has to be solved for a brighter future in Europe and this research proposal could be interpreted as a small step towards addressing the skill shortages and trying to propose possible ways this problem could be addressed.

In 2021, even before the launch of the ‘European Year of Skills’ in 2023, the European Commission shared a vision for Europe’s digital transformation by 2030. With this vision, the Commission proposed a Digital Compass for the EU’s digital decade, which is encompassed by four cardinal points: skills, government, business, infrastructures. Every point has concrete objectives, which are aimed to be achieved by 2030. For example, regarding the skills, it is aimed to achieve gender convergence in the ICT sector, which should be achieved by 2030 together with 20 million ICT specialists, as well as with a minimum 80% population having basic digital skills, while for business it is aimed that more than 90% of SMEs would reach at least a basic level of digital intensity. In the same way the objectives of other cardinals points. This is only one initiative by the European Commission, as alternatively exists more (such as inter-institutional solemn declaration on digital rights and principles Digital Citizenship or the policy programme the Path to Digital Decade, etc). Such European Commission’s initiatives together with an increase of people with basic digital skills could help to facilitate adaptation to industrial changes, in particular through vocational training and retraining and to improve vocational training for integration and reintegration into the labor market, which are the two aims of the European Union mentioned in Article 166. Hopefully, such contributions will help to prepare the vocational education sector for the digital age.

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At the end of 2022, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen presented her idea to make 2023 the ‘European Year of Skills’, which would also cover digital skills. What is the origin of this idea? What was it initiated as one of the main political priorities of the European Commision? and What is the current state of digital education in Europe and separate countries? These and many more questions will be answered in the article. #DigitalAge #DigitalEducation #DigitalSkills

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Digital competences and skills

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