Leaders and experts at the forefront of delivering education discussed how technology could act as a bridge to solving inequalities in learning opportunities for children globally
Speakers at the Future Education-Digital Summit looked at the relationship between digital technology and education and explored ways of improving the synergy between the two.
Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education, explained how technology accelerates innovation in education and can be a “bridge” to education for millions of children worldwide. She advocated embedding technological communication in educational curricula, as well as ensuring children have access to digital devices regardless of their social class.
This was a theme taken up by Ivica Susak, State Secretary at the Croatian Ministry of Science and Education, who underlined how access to quality education is not always uniform, being more difficult for students from lower socio-economic backgrounds and those in less developed regions. Rural, isolated areas tend to be the most vulnerable in terms of digital isolation and illiteracy.
However, socio-economic inequality and variance in accessibility to the internet and devices is just one of many digital divides. Cristina Colom, Director of Digital Future Society, spoke of how the development of digital skills can also be influenced – or hindered – by gender, age and language, with around half of all online content in English.
The Covid pandemic and the spread of digital learning have already started re-shaping education, with online course enrolment doubling in 2020 and rising a further 32% in 2021, according to Coursera. Meanwhile, there have also been significant shifts in the centre of educational gravity: The Times Higher Education rankings, for example, showed that in 2021, 32% of top universities were in Asia, up from 26% in 2016.
Vincent Peng, Board Director and Senior Vice President of Huawei, spoke of the importance of cooperation between the private sector and universities. Qin Changwei, Secretary-General, National Commission for the People’s Republic of China for UNESCO, highlighted how this is already happening in China and the Middle East.
In Spain, 57% of the population has basic digital skills, just above the European target but below the European goal of 80% by 2030, according to Huawei. The company also found that 88% of firms consider re-skilling programmes “important” or “very important”.
Marc García Tamayo, Senior Manager of Workforce Advisory at EY, said their research showed that there is a mismatch between the demand for digital skills and the supply of digital talent available in Spain.
Among their key findings were the identification of a shortage of ICT profiles in the country and the urgent need to develop skills in areas such as data analytics, data science and robot process automation (RPA). Illustrating these concerns were statistics showing that, while 77% of companies feel they have the skills necessary to be competitive now, only 18% have the skills to be competitive over the next five years.
Recommendations drawn from this research included hiring professionals from similar sectors, with a similar technical base, to make re-skilling easier; providing counsellors from the digital world for children in schools, in particular female role models; and an overall modernisation of vocational training.
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