Digital technology enriches learning in a variety of ways and offers learning opportunities, which must be accessible to all. It opens up access to a wealth of information and resources. Europe’s digital transformation will accelerate with the rapid advance of new technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, cloud computing and blockchain. Like previous major technological advances, digitization affects how people live, interact, study and work. Some jobs will disappear, others will be replaced, new jobs will be created, many jobs and industries will be transformed and new activities will emerge.
This makes investing in one’s digital skills throughout life of the utmost importance. While there are many opportunities arising from digital transformation, the biggest risk today is of a society ill-prepared for the future. If education is to be the backbone of growth and inclusion in the EU, a key task is preparing citizens to make the most of the opportunities and meet the challenges of a fast-moving, globalised and interconnected world. Reform efforts continue every year, yet a persistent divide exists between and within EU Member States, in particular regarding digital infrastructure and skills, all of which hinders inclusive growth. Vulnerable groups are particularly affected by this situation. In addition, the lack of interest among girls to pursue studies information and communication technologies (ICT) and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) remains a clear problem. This leads to lost social and economic opportunities and risks reinforcing gender inequality.
Education can benefit from opening classrooms, real-life experiences and projects, and from new learning tools, materials and open educational resources. Learners can be empowered by online collaboration. Access to and the use of digital technologies can help reduce the learning gap between students from high and low socioeconomic backgrounds. Personalized teaching can result in increased motivation by focusing on individual learners. However, progress on integrating technology in education remains limited.
More than 80 % of young people in Europe use the internet for social activities. Mobile access to the internet significantly increased over the last years . But use of technology for educational purposes lags behind. Not all primary and secondary schools in the EU have broadband connections and not all educators have the competences and confidence to use digital tools to support their teaching. A recent study showed that in 2015 an estimated 18 % of primary and secondary schools in the EU were not connected to broadband. Innovation in education systems, understood as the adoption of new services, technologies, competences by education organisations, can help to improve learning outcomes, enhance equity and improve efficiency10. It is most effective and sustainable when embraced by well-trained teachers and embedded in clear teaching goals. More needs to be done on how to best use digital means to reach education objectives.