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Commissioner Cresson stresses importance of education and training in the information society

Mrs. Cresson, Commissioner for science, research and development, education and training, stressed the role of education and training in the information society in her address to the International Multimedia Forum in Tokyo on 25 May 1995. Mrs. Cresson pointed out the versatil...

Mrs. Cresson, Commissioner for science, research and development, education and training, stressed the role of education and training in the information society in her address to the International Multimedia Forum in Tokyo on 25 May 1995. Mrs. Cresson pointed out the versatility and power of information technologies, which can change whole economies and societies. She warned, however, that whilst information technologies can create new jobs and services, they can also place them at risk. Equally, they can help less advanced countries to catch up or throw them into even worse isolation. This considerable industrial and economic stake must therefore be used wisely to the benefit of as many as possible. Up to now, the benefits of the information society have been largely confined to a privileged club of nations. The G7, at its February conference on the information society, recognized the need to extend these benefits to the developing countries since the new technologies offer unprecedented opportunities for linking all sorts of people, cultures and societies to mutual benefit. With this in mind, the Commission and the South African government are organizing an international conference in 1996 on this theme for those who were not present at the G7 summit. Mrs. Cresson therefore stressed the need for a universal service, guaranteeing the right of access to the information technology infrastructure and its contents for all. Mrs. Cresson referred to the general consensus agreed by the G7 that education and training must be the pivotal point of the information society, for two reasons: - Only education and information can open the door to the information society; - Education and training are a vital field of application for the new technologies. It is clear that online education, interactive training media and video conferences between students and teachers in different locations present exceptional opportunities for revitalizing and enriching traditional teaching methods, particularly among young people who can rapidly adapt to these new teaching methods. These methods also offer a second chance to those who have missed out on traditional forms of education or who need to retrain. To attain these objectives, Mrs. Cresson emphasized that strong political will is vital, together with substantial support structures. The public powers and the private sector have an important role to play but must first establish a new type of partnership: - A body of regulation is needed to ensure interconnectivity of different national and international networks and interoperability of norms. The EU must set up a common regulatory authority that will ensure that the European competition rules are observed, in particular those on abuses of dominant positions. Steps must also be taken to ensure that industrial property rights, notably copyright, and the private life of citizens is adequately protected. - Enormous investment will be needed. In order to promote investments in the field of educational software and information technologies, the Commission is considering introducing a tax on communications and information products throughout the European Union, which the Member States can use to fund the development of programmes, in particular on education, training and culture. The Commission is seeking to ensure that liberalization of telecommunications is accompanied by support measures to help European industry develop software programmes, in particular high-quality educational and cultural programmes. In Europe, the content of software programmes has been a high priority, in order to respect individual cultures and languages. The new European education and training programmes, SOCRATES and LEONARDO DA VINCI, each have as priorities multimedia techniques and their use in teaching methods. A new task force has also been set up to establish common research projects on multimedia educational software. The task force is currently drawing up a plan of action, in collaboration with industry, teachers, service providers and users. A demonstration project is also being launched across Europe to link a number of towns by electronic means to exchange experience in this field, set up systems for access to new technologies and train their citizens to use them. 1996 will be Europe Education Year and this will be an opportunity for developing multimedia interactive courses for small children, in particular in mathematics, involving a project for a hundred schools with several thousand teachers. On the subject of international cooperation, Mrs. Cresson stressed the need for the public authorities to work together to establish a dialogue between nations and continents breaking across traditional national, ethnic or cultural differences.

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