eLearning - Designing tomorrow's education
To mobilise Europe's educational and training communities and its economic, social and cultural players with a view to achieving the objectives set at the Lisbon European Council and allowing Europe to catch up and to accelerate the introduction of the knowledge-based society.
Communication from the Commission of 24 May 2000,eLearning - Designing tomorrow's education [COM(2000) 318 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
The eLearning initiative is part of the European Community's overall eEurope strategy, which was designed to help Europe achieve the objective set by Heads of State at the Lisbon European Council on 23 and 24 March 2000: "to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-driven economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion". The overall strategy is based largely on the eEurope communication "An information society for all", the conclusions of the Lisbon Council and the eEurope action plan. Within this strategy a major role is given to the educational and cultural communities, and the aim of the eLearning initiative is to create a framework to allow them to fill this key role.
In future, a society's economic and social performance will be determined largely by the extent to which its citizens can exploit the potential of these new technologies. Attaining this Lisbon objective will depend on the committed involvement of all players in education and training. The eLearning initiative tackles the challenges in these areas and aims to adapt European education and training systems to the needs of the knowledge-based society.
The initiative does not seek to initiate a new process but to bring together the various components of education and training - the eEurope measures, the Luxembourg process and research activities - in order to mobilise the education and training sector.
In parallel, the Lisbon European Council asked the Education Council to undertake a general reflection on the concrete future objectives of education systems, focusing on common priorities, and to present a more comprehensive report to the European Council in the spring of 2001.
Europe must act quickly if it is to eliminate weaknesses and catch up on the United States in the use of the new technologies, an area in which Europe is far behind. As a result, the objectives and measures of the initiative are specific and the time-frame is short.
The initiative has three groups of objectives, each consisting of many detailed goals which target Europe's main weaknesses in this area:
- Objectives for infrastructures:
- provide all schools in the Union with an Internet connection by the end of 2001;
- encourage the creation by the end of 2001 of a trans-European high-speed network for scientific communications linking research institutes, universities, scientific libraries and, in due course, schools;
- ensure that by the end of 2002 all pupils have a fast Internet connection and multimedia resources in the classroom.
- Objectives for increasing people's level of knowledge:
- substantially increase per capita investment in human resources every year;
- provide all citizens with the skills needed to live and work in the new information society;
- enable the population as a whole to become digitally literate.
- Objectives for adapting education and training systems to the knowledge-based society:
- train a sufficient number of teachers in the use of the Internet and multimedia resources by the end of 2002;
- ensure that schools and training centres become local learning centres which are multi-purpose and accessible to all, using the most appropriate methods tailored to the broad diversity of the target groups;
- adopt a European framework to define the new basic skills to which lifelong learning must provide access: information technologies, foreign languages and technical knowledge, for example the introduction of a European diploma for basic information technology skills;
- define, by the end of the year 2000, ways of encouraging mobility among students, teachers, trainers and researchers through optimum use of Community programmes, the removal of obstacles and greater transparency in the recognition of qualifications and periods of study and training;
- prevent exclusion from the knowledge-based society by defining priority actions for certain target groups (minorities, the elderly, people with disabilities, the under-qualified) and women, and by providing a sound basic education;
- provide all pupils with broad digital literacy by the end of 2003.
In order to achieve these ambitious objectives, the initiative is based on four main lines of action:
This line of action tackles one of Europe's major shortcomings in this field and one of the main obstacles to the development of an inclusive knowledge-based society: the shortfall in hardware and software.
The aim of this action is to improve access to digital networks by ensuring that forums of learning, training and knowledge are better-equipped.
One of the objectives is to achieve a ratio by 2004 of 5 to 15 users per computer in schools, which is a considerable challenge given the current disparities in Europe which range from a ratio of one computer per 400 pupils to one computer per 25 pupils.
Training at all levels
The second line of action underlines the importance of lifelong learning for teachers and for other professionals.
Furthermore, as a result of the impact of new technologies on the organisation and contents of education and training programmes and on the learning environment and teaching practices, methods will need to be adapted and innovative educational models introduced.
A definition will therefore be proposed for the basic skills which lifelong learning must provide and for skills specific to the new occupational profiles.
The development of good-quality multimedia services and contents
The successful use of new technologies in this field depends on the availability of relevant and good-quality services and contents. Consequently, the third line of action tackles this problem by trying to strengthen the European educational multimedia industry and its links with education systems, and, by the end of 2002, to strengthen vocational guidance services so as to allow all citizens access to information and training in the field of new technologies and enable them to plan or adjust their career pathways.
The development and networking of learning centres
The fourth line of action tackles the third objective by aiming to transform teaching and training centres into learning centres which are multi-purpose, accessible to all and adapted to suit the needs of the knowledge-based society. For example, virtual forums and campuses will be set up, linking universities, schools, training centres, etc. This will promote the development of distance teaching and training and the exchange of best practice and experience.
Implementation by the Member States
The scale and nature of these challenges and actions require a strong political commitment from the Member States. Attaining these objectives within a short time-frame also requires rapid implementation and often additional effort.
It is planned that the Commission, in conjunction with the Council's Education Committee, will prepare a framework for attaining these goals so that progress and the effectiveness of actions taken can be analysed; this will be done using, inter alia, a benchmarking system based on indicators defined within the Luxembourg progress. Member States are required to contribute to the exchange of relevant information.
As a further measure, observation mechanisms will be developed with targets corresponding to the four lines of action in the eLearning initiative to allow comparison between EU and non-EU countries.
The eLearning initiative will play a part in the revision of the employment guidelines which the Commission will propose in autumn 2000. A specific guideline on eLearning will be proposed.
The initiative will also be part of the European Social Agenda.
The role of the Commission
The initiative will be implemented by means of the open method of coordination, allowing dissemination of best practice and greater convergence with regard to the goals set. The role of the Commission is to support Member States in implementing the initiative and to coordinate and consolidate their efforts at European level.
The Commission is required to present a working paper in October 2000 which will describe all the actions planned at Community level to support the eLearning initiative, and to submit progress reports on eLearning to the Education Council.
In conjunction with the Member States, the Commission will focus Community instruments and programmes on the attainment of shared goals, with contributions from:
- the Structural Funds;
- Community programmes in education, culture and training (Socrates, Leonardo);
- research programmes (IST, TSER);
- international cooperation programmes;
- the Community's financial bodies.
In this field, particular attention will be given to:
- the recognition of qualifications;
- language learning;
- education in communication and the media;
- promoting mobility among teachers, students, trainers and researchers, also within the European Research Area;
- the development of virtual mobility.
The Commission will undertake specific actions at Community level which will fuel reflection and action at both national and Community level, including:
- consolidating the cooperation developed within the EUN network (The European Schoolnet). EUN brings together twenty education ministries in both the EU and Central and Eastern European countries to set up a virtual and multilingual European campus and to develop a European network for innovation and exchange of information in the field of information technology;
- creating European gateways to bring together coherent educational communities;
- setting up a general framework for discussion on innovation in progress, including the creation of a high-level group on "Designing tomorrow's education and training";
- developing observation mechanisms;
- setting up a training network for trainers;
- setting up an eLearning Internet site;
- promoting employability by developing qualifications and skills associated with new technologies.
Attainment of these ambitious objectives will enable the citizens of Europe to take an active part in the construction of the most dynamic and cohesive society in the world.
4) IMPLEMENTING MEASURES
Reportfrom the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 27 January 2000 entitled "Designing tomorrow's education - Promoting innovation with new technologies" [COM(2000) 23 final - Not published in the Official Journal].