Although the numbers of computers in European schools have doubled since 2006 and students and teachers are keen to ‘go digital’, 20pc of secondary students across Europe have never or almost never used a computer in their school lessons.
An ICT in schools survey by the European Commission also reveals that the skill levels of teachers when it comes to ICT are still lacking.
The survey found that only one in four nine-year-olds studies at a ‘highly digitally-equipped school’ – with recent equipment, fast broadband (10Mbps plus) and high ‘connectivity’ (website, email for students and teachers, local area network, virtual learning environment).
Only half of 16-year-olds are in such ‘highly digitally-equipped schools’.
Students’ frequency of ICT-based learning activities in the classroom increases when schools have specific formal policies to use ICTs.
There are marked country differences. Scandinavian and Nordic countries have the best equipment (Sweden, Finland, Denmark); while students in Poland, Romania, Italy, Greece, Hungary and Slovakia are most likely to lack the right equipment.
Laptops, tablets and netbooks are replacing desktop computers in many schools.
The survey showed that a lack of equipment does not mean lack of interest: some countries with the highest use of computer equipment are the ones with the lowest scores on equipment provisions (eg, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Cyprus and Hungary).
It is essential for students to have access to ICTs at both home and school.
Most teachers believe there is need for radical policy change. Teachers are generally confident and positive about the use of ICTs for learning. This confidence is key: skilled and confident teachers are more important than the latest equipment to delivering digital skills and knowledge.
However, teacher training in ICT is rarely compulsory and therefore most teachers devote spare time to private study of these skills.
Teachers use computers to prepare lessons more often than they use them in lessons.
Integrated approach to ICT teaching is needed
The European Commission vice-president for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes said an integrated approach to ICT teaching in schools is needed, meaning not only investment in infrastructure but also greater investment in teachers’ training, rewards for teachers using ICT in the classroom, and the creation of ICT co-ordinator posts.
At EU level, the commission is recommended to work to reduce divergence in ICT teaching between countries, support projects on new approaches to teaching through digital technologies, support high quality digital learning resources for teachers and regularly monitor progress in the use of digital technologies and digital competence.
“ICT skills and training must be available to all students and teachers, not just a lucky few,” Kroes said.
“We want our young people exposed to ICTs in school from the very beginning, and we want teachers who are confident to share their knowledge,” she added.