Learning and Skills for the Digital Era

Learning and skills are key contributors to society and the economy. As modern societies and economies are changing due to, amongst others, globalisation and technological progress, a fundamental transformation of education and training (E&T) throughout Europe is required to deliver the knowledge and skills needed for growth, employment and participation in society. This is at the hearth of the Europe 2020 agenda and was already announced in September 2013 when the European Commission launched the initiative "Opening up Education: Innovative teaching and learning for all through new technologies and Open Educational Resources". JRC research in this area is focused on how to make better use of ICT for rethinking learning, for innovating education and training and for addressing new skills requirements (e.g. digital competence) to generate growth, employment and social inclusion.

New Skills and competences

Creativity, entrepreneurship, learning-to-learn, digital competence and other 21st century skills and competences are emerging as more and more important for innovation, growth and participation in a digital society and economy. The key challenge for research and policy is to make sure that supply and demand for new skills and competences are matched: How can or should these new skills and competences be defined, described, thought, acquired and recognised?

With the 2006 European Recommendation on Key Competences, Digital Competence (DigComp) and Sense of Initiative and Entrepreneurship (EntreComp) have been acknowledged to be part of the 8 key competences for Lifelong Learning by the European Union.

Digital Competence can be broadly defined as the confident, critical and creative use of ICT to achieve goals related to work, employability, learning, leisure, inclusion and/or participation in society. Sense of initiative and entrepreneurship refers to the ability of individuals to transform ideas into action again for personal, social-cultural or job related purposes.  Both Digital Competence and Sense of Initiative and Entrepreneurship are transversal key competences which, as such, enable acquiring other key competences (e.g. language, mathematics, learning to learn, cultural awareness).

The JRC studies Digital Competence and Sense of Initiative and Entrepreneurship, on behalf of DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, aim to create reference frameworks to enable a common understanding across Europe and to guide MS initiatives.

The JRC is also conducting research to gather empirical evidence on changes in the task composition of occupations in relation to the intensity of ICT use, to undestand how ICT use affects tasks, occupations and overall employment. This new research will also gather evidence on the skill (especially digital skill) composition of the labour force and overall population in the EU, in order to verify if skill shortage and/or mismatch are a barrier to completion of the Digital Single Market.

Innovating and modernising Education and Learning

Innovating and modernising education and training are key priorities in several flagship initiatives of the Europe 2020 strategy, in particular Agenda for New Skills and Jobs, Youth on the Move, the Digital Agenda and the Innovation Union. The priority is directly linked to the educational key targets of the Europe 2020 Strategy regarding early school leaving and tertiary attainment levels. Educational stakeholders recognise the actual and potential contribution of ICT to realising these targets, and more broadly, the role of ICT as a key enabler of innovation and creativity in E&T and for learning at large.  The key challenge for research and policy is to move innovative small-scale projects to the mainstream by tackling technological, pedagogical and organisational innovation all together, from a systemic point of view. This is still lacking in many countries.

Open education

Today, millions of learners worldwide are using open learning materials online, freely available in the public domain, also labelled as Open Educational Resources (OER).  The rapid expansion of Open Education initiatives (e.g. MOOC's: Massive Online Open Courses) are not only challenging traditionally closed education systems and providers but also providing opportunities for improving access, quality and efficiency of education.

The European Union is aware of these challenges as described in the European Commission Communication "Opening up Education: Innovative teaching and learning for all through new technologies and Open Educational Resources" (September 2013). The key challenge for research and policy is to better understand how Open Education can be fostered and which measures need to be taken for improving quality, efficiency, equity and innovation in education in Europe.