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 at the 2012 Communication on “Rethinking Education: Investing in skills for better socio-economic outcomes”. 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, eSkills 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 (DC) has been acknowledged as one 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. DC is a transversal key competence which, as such, enables acquiring other key competences (e.g. language, mathematics, learning to learn, cultural awareness). It is related to many of the so-called 21st century skills which should be acquired by all citizens, to ensure their active participation in society and the economy.
The JRC studies Digital Competence, on behalf of DG Education and Culture, with the aim to better understand and describe DC in terms of the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to be digitally competent. It has developed a digital competence framework, similar to the one that exists for the European language levels and comparable to, for instance, the European Qualifications Framework (EQF). It is has defined 5 main competence areas for digital competence and 23 specific competences.
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.
Opening up 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 extremely rapid expansion of OER 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 and announced in the 2012 Communication on “Rethinking Education” a new initiative for 2013 on "Opening up Education". The key challenge for research and policy is to better understand how the use of OER in education can be fostered and which measures need to be taken for improving quality, efficiency, equity and innovation in education in Europe. OER are, as defined by UNESCO in 2002, teaching, learning or research materials that are in the public domain or released with an intellectual property license that allows for free use, adaptation, and distribution.
Future of learning and skills
This section broadens our view from the current impact and use of ICT for Learning towards visioning what learning in the knowledge-based society in Europe in the next 10-15 years would be, in contrast with existing industrial society based learning, and what kind of skills and competences need to be learned for the new jobs of the future.
While 2025 might seem a long way ahead in the future, it is good to remember that children starting school in 2013 will be finishing their obligatory schooling or entering tertiary education circa 10 years later. The aim of this foresight activity is to think about and document major changes to education and training, looking at the changing in terms of what we learn, how we learn, where and when we learn, and with whom we learn, and, at how we assess and recognise what is being learned. The aim is not to predict but to elaborate and understand different, plausible futures.