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Czech Republic: Digital education - challenges and actions

In December 2017, the Czech national digital skills and jobs coalition (DIGI coalition) celebrated its first year in operation.

Its formation was initiated by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MŠMT) following the example of other EU countries, to fulfil the shared European Union vision in the Digital skills and jobs coalition. It represents one of the ten key initiatives proposed under the new Skills agenda for Europe and aims to support digital skills that are quickly becoming a basic requirement for the performance of most occupations in line with the requirements of Industry 4.0.

The formation of the DIGI coalition fulfils one of the goals of the Digital education strategy of the Czech Republic up to 2020. The Coalition seeks to support, connect and inspire organisations whose ambition is to foster digital education for the labour market through synergies of cooperating organisations, their targeted activities, and specific commitments of individual members. Its 67 members include representatives of state institutions, entrepreneurs and the non-profit sector. Coalition members have made several commitments, including providing one obligatory semester of practical training at a faculty of informatics and setting up a digital education centre focused on elderly citizens. In municipalities, local employers and representatives of schools aim to encourage foreign language acquisition and digital education through purchases of IT equipment for schools and provision of internships in companies.       

The coalition organises panel discussions, roundtables, workshops and other joint meetings to create space to debate and discuss selected topics. It provides support for conferences, seminars and campaigns promoting IT fields and digital skills.    

The DIGI coalition faces multiple challenges that require agreement of various parties: preparing learners in formal and non-formal education for a digital world; teacher training; the impact of digitalisation on interpersonal relationships; how to address digital literacy and computational thinking in primary and secondary schools curricula; big data in education; and the need for pedagogical research on use of digital technologies in teaching or the position of network administrators in schools.

While the current way of teaching in general education focuses primarily on the user’s approach to technology, future emphasis should be given to the development of computational thinking. Digital literacy should become an integrative part of all other disciplines. MŠMT has announced projects, under the ESF, with the participation of pedagogical faculties in developing teaching materials for the new approaches and topics to be incorporated into current updating of 10 year-old curricula. In 2017, the ministry also provided support to tertiary professional schools that will be engaged in the development of digital teaching material of foreign languages and vocational subjects and creation of massive open online courses (MOOC). A key priority of Czech digital education is to promote greater applicability of creative commons’ licences in education, particularly for resources and teaching materials paid from public sources. At regional level, the goal is to create and build human resources – lecturers, network administrators and ICT professionals – to avoid the need buy in digital support.