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Infusing the digital into European education

To be successful in the modern workforce, students need to be equipped with the skills that are most in demand from employers. The ability to write well, analyse and problem solve are the crucial classic ‘soft’ skills that are highly sought, but digital skills have become just as valuable and cherished. The global marketplace is increasingly dominated by technology, and the digital realm is seeping into all aspects of life and the economy.

‘If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.’ – Chinese proverb

But it’s not just tech-savvy graduates aiming for an entry-level role in an innovative start-up who need to worry about their digital skills. Industrial workers in sectors as diverse as manufacturing, energy and mining, as well as administrative staff and bank managers need to become fully comfortable in the digital sphere as well. By upskilling students with the digital skills required for a globalised world economy, everyone benefits – companies remain competitive and the economy is strengthened. At the same time, all workers, regardless of age, profession or income, should also have the opportunity to upskill themselves throughout their careers. Digital skills need to be embedded right from the very beginning of formal education, in kindergarten/playschool right through to secondary school and tertiary education, whether that be university or a more vocational route. The education system itself and the very methods by which students learn and teachers teach must be adapted for the era of digitalisation. In short, digital technologies have become an inseparable aspect of the learning process. The EU does not have formal competences in the education arena but it does work on several initiatives that aim to help modernise education and training (such as those outlined in the Digital Education Action Plan) and provides funding through Horizon 2020 to promote digital technologies used for learning. In Horizon 2020’s 2018-2020 work programme, the focus is on supporting actions on smarter, open, trusted and personalised learning solutions to optimise digital learning and allow learners to engage and interact with both content and peers. In our special feature this month, we’re meeting seven Horizon 2020-funded projects that have developed innovative solutions to infuse the digital into European education. These include one that has harnessed digital technologies to encourage entrepreneurship in youngsters, another that is using innovative online methods to bring books and reading to life, and finally one that has created a digital solution for encouraging more students to engage with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects. We look forward to receiving your feedback. You can send questions or suggestions to editorial@cordis.europa.eu.

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