Over 70 percent of both lower and higher secondary school students within the European Union never or “almost never” engage in coding or programming at school
These are the findings of a survey conducted by the European Commission on the current state of ICT in education and published today.
The striking report, which surveyed 85,000 head teachers, teachers, students and parents from the EU’s 29 member states, Norway, Iceland and Turkey, also found that a gender divide is alive and well, with girls less likely to be coding.
The report shows the “urgent need to scale-up events such as Code Week, a grassroots movement promoting programming and computational thinking in a fun and engaging way”, European officials said today, adding that the Commission wants to see 50 percent of schools in Europe taking part in Code Week events by 2020.
Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society said in the report: “The fact that 79% of lower secondary school students and 76% of upper secondary school students never or almost never engage in coding or programming proves the relevance of our policies to fill the existing gaps in skills and digital connectivity.”
“Both challenges are at the very centre of the digital single market strategy and are central to bringing tangible benefits for citizens and businesses.”
Code Week + Better Connectivity Needed
A key barrier in improving the quality of ICT education in schools is the challenge of increasing internet connectivity. Currently very few schools have access to high-speed internet with speeds above 100 mbps, the EC found. In fact the survey found that less than one in five students attended schools which had speeds above 100 mbps.
This low level of connectivity makes the EU goal of equipping schools with Gigabit (1000mbps or better) levels of connectivity by 2025 seem like an unachievable fantasy.
In order to move closer to the 2025 goal the EU has proposed investment in high-speed internet access across the EU in its Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) programme for 2021-2027.
Worryingly not all teachers appear to have official ICT training available through their education institutions, as the report notes a clear trend of teachers taking up ‘professional development activities’ with regards to ICT training in their own personal time. The study found that six out of ten students are taught by teachers who are giving up their own time to have relevant skills.
Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport commented that: “Embedding technology into teaching and learning requires action on many fronts from infrastructure to teacher training through to school leadership. With the Erasmus+ programme we are supporting schools and Member States to adapt to digital change and to help young people to understand and use technology in critical and creative ways.”
Rachid Hourizi, Director of the Institute of Coding, a joint government and industry initiative, told Computer Business Review that: “As we begin to see issues emerge as a result of the digital skills gap that we currently find ourselves in, it is essential that decision makers in the education industry begin to recognise coding as an essential skill – one which must be introduced and encouraged as part of the core curriculum in schools.”
“Without offering or encouraging young people in education to pursue coding – one of the most necessary skills required for a career in IT – you are limiting the choices that are available to them, should they choose to go on to higher education or pursue a job opportunity within the technology industry.”
“By developing an interest in coding from a young age, European countries can ensure that their economy is safe in the hands of digitally capable future leaders, who will guarantee their businesses remain at the very forefront of innovation, diversity and cutting-edge technology.”