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Brussels, 24 May 2000

Commission adopts "eLearning" to adapt our education and training systems to the knowledge economy and digital culture

At the Lisbon European Council on 23 and 24 March 2000, the Heads of State and Government set the Union the objective of becoming "the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-driven economy in the world". Europe which enjoys one of the highest levels of education and has the necessary investment capacity still lags far behind in the use of the new information and communication technologies. eLearning is designed to enable Europe to catch up by intensifying its efforts. It implements and extends into education and training the eEurope action plan, including in particular the guidelines for employment.

Announced last March (see IP/00/934) by Viviane Reding, Commissioner with responsibility for education and culture, the eLearning initiative which the Commission adopted today on the basis of her proposal, in agreement with Mr Liikanen and Ms Diamantopoulou, is designed to mobilise the educational and cultural communities and the economic and social players in Europe. It adds a European dimension to measures in progress or being prepared at local, regional and national levels. This Commission communication will be discussed at the forthcoming Council meeting of Education Ministers on 8 June. eLearning sets Europeans several types of objectives:

Objectives for infrastructures

  • provide all schools in the European Union with an Internet connection by the end of 2001, and then ensure that by the end of 2002 all pupils have a fast Internet connection and multimedia resources in the classroom. The equipment ratios for schools should be 5-15 users per multimedia computer by 2004;

  • encourage the creation by the end of 2001 of a trans-European high-speed network for specific communications between research institutes, universities, scientific libraries and, in due course, schools;

  • offer vocational training organisations, learning centres and firms good quality (high speed) infrastructures for access to the Internet. Other forums of learning (libraries, cultural centres, museums, etc.) must also be equipped as life-long learning becomes essential.

Objectives for training people at all levels

  • Beyond the objective of increasing per capita investment in human resources each year, schools and training centres must become local centres for acquiring knowledge accessible to everyone. In addition, by the end of 2002, the capacity of vocational guidance services should be stepped up so that everyone can have easy access to information on opportunities for initial and continuing training and on the skills and qualifications required on the labour market. The purpose of such services is to plot or adjust training and career pathways.

  • Train teachers by the end of 2002 in use of the Internet and multimedia resources.

  • Adopt a European framework of new computer, language and technical skills for which a European diploma will be awarded in basic IT skills.

Objectives in terms of educational content and networking of schools

  • Develop high-quality multimedia services and content. This will involve tightening links between the European multimedia industry and training systems. Quality criteria and arrangements for evaluating the content will be necessary.

  • Speed up the interconnection of schools and universities (virtual campuses). In particular the Commission intends to strengthen the "European Schoolnet" initiative between Education Ministries, promote the creation of European gateways and set up a network of trainers who are experts in the use of new technologies in education and training.

The eLearning initiative, with clear and short deadlines, requires the Member States, the Council and the Commission to take measures in areas for which they are responsible. The Commission will produce a system for benchmarking action taken (in particular by means of progress reports) which will be submitted to the Education Council. It will back Member States' efforts: to support steps taken locally, the Commission will focus Community instruments and programmes on attainment of the shared goals. This mobilisation will be concentrated in three areas:

  • Member States will be encouraged to use their allocations under the Structural Funds, in particular with regard to equipment and the training of teachers and trainers and to set up multi-use local centres accessible to everyone;

  • contribution of the Community programmes in the areas of education, culture and learning (Socrates, Leonardo da Vinci, Culture 2000, Media Plus), research (both technological, via the IST and TEN-Telecom programmes, and socio-economic, via the TSER programme) and international cooperation, via the programmes for the applicant countries, the MEDA programme, etc.;

  • close collaboration with the European Investment Bank in order to strengthen the European industry of multimedia content for education and training.

Existing programmes are currently being reshaped in order to make the initiative a success. A Commission staff paper will be presented in October 2000 setting out all the actions to be taken at Community level to implement the initiative. eLearning will also be included in the European Social Agenda to be adopted by the Nice European Council in December 2000. The Commission is planning to set up an eLearning Internet site to stimulate exchange of experience and to provide easy access to all methods linked with the new learning contexts which are emerging and constantly being improved.

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