ICT is underused in schools and the young are in danger of not being able to cope with the digital society, writes Neelie Kroes
The Royal Dutch Academy of Science recently added its findings to what is becoming a considerable stack of reports about a worrying lack of digital skills among students.
The Academy concludes that schools must incorporate compulsory digital skills in the curriculum. It will give future ICT workers a good basic knowledge but more is needed to prepare people for life in the digital society.
The Dutch educational system, to a large extent, still reflects a society dominated by status and hierarchy. Little attention is paid to individual talents and learning needs.
Society doesn’t only need eggheads but carers, builders and creators as well. Talent can surface in all sorts of ways and we shouldn’t measure each individual with the same tape measure. We have to stimulate other ways of thinking, not discourage it.
Whether it’s the work floor or a joint development of open-source software, new technology is enabling us to break down hierarchical barriers. Traditional views on competition, control and secrecy are gradually being replaced by a culture of openness, collaboration and shared information. Modern entrepreneurs and businesses are adapting their business structures and welcome diversity. Isn’t it about time we shared these ideas with our children while they are young?
Schools have been slow to see what new technologies can do to improve education and adapt it to the individual needs of students. ICT is offering us a wealth of challenging new ways of teaching and learning. The founder of media theory, Marshall McCluhan, said those who separate education and entertainment don’t understand either. More than thirty years after his death and many technology generations later, this concept still hasn’t caught hold. Many schools use ICT but are far from profiting from its enormous potential.
The world is changing rapidly. Europe is on the verge of a huge shortage of properly trained ICT workers. We need talented young men and women to fill the gap. If we want to lead in the field of knowledge and innovation we shouldn’t teach our children the skills their parents needed but those they will need in the future. The educational system has to become more flexible and diverse.
At the beginning of the last century people buying a Ford automobile could choose any colour as long as it was black. Is that what we want for our educational system or will we enable it to keep up with the new technologies of a changing world?
Neelie Kroes is euro commissioner for the Digital Agenda
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