Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

To provide innovative approaches to language learning, in particular for students and for SMEs.


During the G-7 Ministerial Conference devoted to the Information Society (Brussels 25-26 February) the G-7 members, along with the European Commission, decided to launch 11 pilot projects which are designed to demonstrate the potential benefits of the Information Society and to stimulate its deployment.

The key objectives of the pilot projects are to:

- Support international consensus on common principles for applications, access and interoperability of networks;
- Establish groundwork for cooperation among G-7 partners to create a critical mass to address the global Information Society issue;
- Create an opportunity for information exchange leading to further development of the Information Society;
- Identify and select exemplary projects with tangible, understandable, and demonstrable socio-economic and cultural benefits;
- Identify obstacles to implementing applications related to a global Information Society;
- Help create markets for new products and services.

The purpose of the pilot project on cross-cultural education and training is to offer access to distance learning facilities and various sources of knowledge, by interconnecting educational institutions, small business resource centres and other institutions - both in industrialized countries and, as far as possible, in developing countries. The adaptation of education and training systems and an improved understanding of linguistic and cultural differences will be of paramount importance for individuals and companies to fully participate in the emerging "global village" which is being brought about by the advent of the Information Society.

In this context, the pilot project aims at experimenting with new ways of cooperation in the education and training of those who will work in the Information Society. An emphasis is to be placed on the challenges of providing innovative language courses which will employ material including: text, sound, image and video sequences in order to familiarize learners with the key characteristics of how people work and live in another country.

The pilot project is divided into two interrelated sub-projects, dealing with cross-cultural education and cross-cultural training respectively. The goal of the first of these sub-projects is to facilitate the work of language teachers by providing them with up-to-date training material dealing with cultural and societal issues. Furthermore, it will strive to establish a forum for the mutual exchange of experience and to experiment, in some pilot cases, with cross-national language teaching.

The second sub-project focuses on gathering the most relevant information in the training sector in order to help SMEs to surmount the linguistic and cultural obstacles encountered when trying to do business outside their own country. Activities are to include the transformation of the body of information collected into practical training materials to be used by those involved in SME training in the countries participating in the project. This is to be accompanied by information exchange facilities. A cooperative language training service throughout the participating countries is also to be established.


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France and Germany are responsible for the operational coordination of the pilot project on cross-cultural education and training and, as such, are responsible for drafting a feasibility study together with a detailed implementation plan (scheduled for May 1996). The implementation plan is to include:

- Definition of technical solutions (the World Wide Web (WWW) is to play a central role); - Definition by educational experts of national user needs and their G-7 commonalities;
- Study of existing mechanisms of language and trans-cultural learning (strengths, weaknesses and potential);
- Identification of existing digital resources at either the national or international level.

The overall pilot project comprises four content layers. The first layer concerns continuous information exchange and mutual access to existing and upcoming information in order to facilitate direct contacts among all players and to allow continuous monitoring of all development in each country. The second layer will be an open, interactive communication platform among teachers, trainers and educational/training communities to gather different experiences, models and structures. The third layer is to take the form of a permanent "virtual showcase of materials and tools" to emphasize concrete applications of technologies for education and training purposes. The fourth layer will be the limited facilities of cross-national pilot experimentation, where the network provides the essential character of those experiments, in order to bring quick and broad dissemination of project activities.

The four layers are technically mirrored in respective functionalities of a "virtual G-7 server for education and training", consisting of national servers which will make use of networking infrastructures and experience at existing centres of excellence in the respective countries. These servers should facilitate close contacts with national server locations of the other G-7 pilot projects and, at the same time, ensure sufficient working contacts with the national educational environment. The servers will be using existing technologies, but will be prepared in such a way as to enable their migration to higher bandwidths, more complete multimedia services and state-of-the-art protocols as soon as clients can afford them.

Pilot project participants have already been identified by all G-7 partners; Spain has been invited to join the group as an observer. (Other European Union Member States have also expressed an interest in participating in the project.) Pilot project participants are expected to nominate appropriate experts and probable sites for potential servers.

Once the feasibility study and implementation plan have been drawn-up and adopted, work is to begin on the collection and development of training materials and validation of the cooperative training tools. The full-scale demonstration of activities launched under the framework of the pilot project are scheduled to be launched in 1997.
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