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Kroes calls for education and employment reform

Kroes calls for education and employment reform

European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, this week outlined her intentions to transform education across the EU using information and communications technology (ICT). Kroes, along with the Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism, Sport, Media and Youth, Androulla Vassiliou, plan to unveil new proposals to reform education in Europe next week.

Kroes said that ICT enables a whole new way of learning as information is no longer “locked up” and open resources enable “a million different ways to learn”. She added that teachers are “no longer gatekeepers, but guides”.

“It’s about ICT transforming teaching, just as is has transformed and disrupted so much else in our lives. Learning anywhere, anyhow; learning that’s made-to-measure not off-the-peg. It’s about truly integrating technological tools for twenty-first century teaching,” she said.

But Kroes acknowledged that there are barriers blocking her vision, such as teachers being unfamiliar with ICT or being underequipped. There is also legal uncertainty on what educational institutions can share and access, she said, and in some countries almost half the pupils don’t even have internet at school.

Kroes also called for IT and telecoms firms to do more for the continent’s workforce.

She said that there are more jobs in the digital sector than can be filled at the moment, but that these jobs are waiting for the next generation with the right digital skills.

She attributed this as the reason the EU set up a Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs; a multi-stakeholder partnership to tackle the lack of ICT skills and the hundreds of thousands of unfilled ICT-related vacancies. Kroes also hailed operator group Telefonica for being among the first to present pledges to that initiative.

“It’s not just about safe jobs in big companies of course. With low costs , low barriers to entry, and no limit to your creativity, the internet is a great place for innovators to be. And the natural home for anyone with an entrepreneurial mindset,” she said.

“People who don’t just think: “I could buy this gadget!” – but: “I could make it better”! People who don’t just notice all the problems – but spot the opportunities, and innovate to capture them. Those who don’t dream of a nice steady “9 to 5″ – but want to take a risk and break out on their own.”

Kroes also noted a study revealing that although young Europeans are more digital than the older generation, compared to young people elsewhere in the world, they are actually more pessimistic about the possibilities of technology.

“I want to change that. Once we led the world in ICT: why not any more? Why shouldn’t our people have hope in a digital future? Why shouldn’t Europe be the home of a vibrant digital culture, strong digital companies, and limitless digital creativity? Why shouldn’t the next Facebook, the next Google, the next Kickstarter be European?”

“I think they can. We have the tools, we have the technology, we definitely have the talent. And in a connected continent there is no limit to our ambitions.”