Building tomorrow’s digital skills – What conclusions can we draw from international comparative indicators?
Recently produced by the Division for Policies and Lifelong Learning Systems in UNESCO’s Education Sector, this report looks at the conditions impacting the development of digital skills based on five international comparative surveys, the results of which reveal a sample group of twelve countries whose population have particularly high levels of digital skills. This paper is part of the Working Papers on Education Policy series designed to nurture the international debate about a wide range of education policy issues.
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 56% of adults worldwide lack digital skills. The report shows that to achieve the best conditions for the development of digital skills, public authorities must pursue efforts in two areas: policies that create a supportive framework, and sectoral policies for basic and further training.
What are digital skills
According to the authors, the phrase “digital skills” denotes a wide range of skills, some of which relate more to behavior, expertise, know-how and life skills and are complementary and closely interconnected. Since the concept of digital skills is still evolving, those skills must be not only acquired but also constantly adapted and updated.
Digital Literacy include:
- Photo-visual literacy – Understanding visual representations
- Reproduction literacy – Creative re-use of information
- Information literacy – Evaluation of information
- Branching literacy – Ability to understand hypermedia and non-linear thinking
- Socio-emotional literacy – Behavior in cyber space
Based of the analysis of five comparative studies which reveal factors underlying the development of digital skills, the report identifies good practices on the basis of certain countries’ experiences.
Singapore, Czechia, Republic of Korea, Australia, Norway, Hong Kong and Ireland are considered leading countries in digital skills of children, whilst Denmark, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Luxembourg and Finland are leaders in developing digital skills of adults.
Among children, four main key points can be drawn from the studies:
- Early acquaintance of students with technological devices is associated with better digital skills.
- Equipping schools and homes with technological devices is not enough to foster digital skill. What matters is the use that is made of them.
- Diversification of online activities is associated with better digital skills. Encouraging children to diversify their online activities can help improve their digital skills.
- The use of ICT by teachers has a positive effect on pupils’ digital skills, especially when this approach is applied across all subjects, and not restricted to computing classes. Teacher training in ICT is therefore crucial.
With regard to adult skills, digital skills are closely linked to socioeconomic factors, specifically educational attainment. This may indicate that the highest-performing countries in terms of digital skills are those with the least educational inequality. Improved access to further education among adults is crucial to promoting the development of digital skills.
To create the best conditions for the development of digital skills, two types of public policy must be taken into account: policies that create a supportive framework, and sectoral policies for basic and further training.
Non-sectoral policies should focus on three areas to create an enabling environment:
- Technological infrastructure, through investments aimed at providing quality high-speed Internet access,
reducing access costs, connecting populations in remote regions, switching from 2G to 3G and 4G, etc.
- Digitization of businesses, by providing a framework and incentives for businesses to adopt new technologies and update their working practices by integrating digital technologies.
- The development of online content (locally relevant content, content in local languages, etc.) to create a
virtuous circle in which enhanced content is both a driver and a consequence of digital skills.