A new report released by DG CONNECT of the European Commission has revealed that 44% of Europeans do not have basic digital skills. This study predicts that 9 out of 10 jobs in the future will require these basic digital skills, meaning that Europe could suffer a digital skills gap.

This study stems from the WiFi EU initiative and from the 2016 ‘Communication on Connectivity for a European Gigabit Society’ which indicates as strategic objective for 2025 “Gigabit connectivity for all main socio-economic drivers such as schools” with the purpose of opening up education.

Among several national digitalisation initiatives, noteworthy is the “Connected Schools programme” which is embedded into the Digital Agenda in Spain and it is expected to benefit more than 6 million Spanish students by providing ultra-fast broadband access and high-capacity wireless networks to 16,500 primary and secondary schools across Spain. This programme “Escuelas Conectadas” is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund of the Commission and various Ministries of the Spanish Government. However, ETUCE observes that the public call is open mostly to private economic operators to provide IT technical support and infrastructures, in particular, in schools based in disadvantaged and rural areas in Spain. Indeed, the development of these sort of digital educational initiatives should also address social inclusion and citizenship and not solely employability aspects, and need to be consulted and viewed with education trade unions in Spain as the representative voice of teachers and other education personnel.

In general, ETUCE acknowledges the opportunities of ICTs and new technologies can have for society and education, in particular through linking digitalisation with social inclusion and recalls that the most effective way of closing the digital skills gap is to make sure that there is substantial and appropriate public investment in digital education, not only regarding equipment, connectivity and Internet facilities, but also as regards digital skills and continuous ICT training for teachers and education personnel. In addition, it is also important to note that digital devices or apps are not  the aim per se, they are one out of many teaching tools. In any event, the usage of Internet services and ICT applications in education must respect the pedagogical aims of the teaching activity as well as the professional autonomy of teachers and must not be used to implement privatization in education and/or commercialization of education.

To tackle the ’digital skills divide’, ETUCE reiterates that teachers and other education personnel are given the necessary resources, training support and investment, as exposed in the ETUCE policy paper: “The 21st Century Teaching Profession and the Use of ICT”.

To see the full report, please click here.