Contributed by:
Sharp Tutor
The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting heavily on education and training systems. In highly difficult circumstances it has accelerated the digital transformation and triggered rapid, large-scale change. Developments that could have taken years happened in just a few weeks. We are now faced with both challenges and opportunities. This means we need to use the lessons of recent months to step up our efforts and gradually evolve from temporary, emergency-focused remote education to more effective, sustainable and equitable digital education, as part of creative, flexible, modern and inclusive education and training. This process should be informed by contemporary teaching practices and research.
2021 - 2027
education and training
for the digital age
Education and
In her political guidelines, President von der Leyen Digital technology, when deployed skilfully, equita-
highlighted the need to unlock the potential of digital bly and effectively by educators, can fully support
technologies for learning and teaching and to develop the agenda of high quality and inclusive education
digital skills for all. Education and training are key for and training for all learners. It can facilitate more
personal fulfilment, social cohesion, economic growth personalised, flexible and student-centred learning,
and innovation. They are also a critical building block at all phases and stages of education and training.
for a fairer and more sustainable Europe. Raising the Technology can be a powerful and engaging tool for
quality and inclusiveness of education and training collaborative and creative learning. It can help learn-
systems and the provision of digital skills for all during ers and educators access, create and share digital
the digital and green transitions is of strategic impor- content. It can also allow learning to take place beyond
tance for the EU. the walls of the lecture hall, classroom or workplace,
providing more freedom from the constraints of phys-
Rapid digitalisation over the past decade has trans- ical location and timetable. Learning can happen in a
formed many aspects of work and daily life. Driven fully online or a blended mode, at a time, place and
by innovation and technological evolution, the digital pace suited to the needs of the individual learner.
transformation is reshaping society, the labour market However, the type and design of technological tools
and the future of work. Employers face difficulties and platforms, as well as the digital pedagogy used,
in recruiting highly skilled workers across a number impact directly on whether individuals are included or
of economic sectors, including in the digital sector. excluded from learning. Students with disabilities, for
Too few adults are up- and re-skilling to fill these example, need tools that are fully accessible if they
vacancies, often because training is not available at are to benefit from digital transformation.
the right time and in the right place.
There are two interrelated aspects to digital education
The use of digital technologies is also crucial for to which the strategic priorities of this Action Plan
achievement of the European Green Deal objectives will respond: firstly, the deployment of the vast and
and for reaching climate neutrality by 2050. Digital growing array of digital technologies (apps, platforms,
technologies are powerful enablers for the green software) to improve and extend education and train-
economic transition, including for moving to a circu- ing. Online, distance and blended learning are specific
lar economy and decarbonising energy, transport, examples of how technology can be used to support
construction, agriculture and all other industries and teaching and learning processes. A second key aspect
sectors. In parallel, it is important to reduce the climate of digital education is the need to equip all learners
and environmental footprint of digital products and with digital competences (knowledge, skills and atti-
facilitate a move towards sustainable behaviour in tudes) to live, work, learn and thrive in a world increas-
both development and use of digital products. ingly mediated by digital technologies. Addressing
these two aspects of digital education requires policies
The education and training system is increasingly and actions on several fronts, including infrastructure,
part of the digital transformation and can harness its strategy and leadership, teacher skills, learner skills,
benefits and opportunities. However, it also needs to content, curricula, assessment and national legal
effectively manage the risks of the digital transforma- frameworks. While Member States are responsible for
tion, including the risk of an urban/rural digital divide the content of teaching and the organisation of their
where certain people can benefit more than others. education and training systems, action at EU level can
The digital transformation in education is being driven contribute to the development of quality and inclusive
by advances in connectivity; the widespread use of education and training by supporting cooperation, the
devices and digital applications; the need for individual exchange of good practice, frameworks, research,
flexibility and the ever-increasing demand for digital recommendations and other tools.
skills. The COVID-19 crisis, which has heavily impacted
education and training, has accelerated the change
and provided a learning experience.
3. Recent data show a diverse situation of digital educa- and learning online and the different pedagogical
tion across Member States. Evidence from the OECD’s approaches needed for this mode of instruction. Not
PISA exercise in 2018 showed that many low-income all tools or content were accessible, and learners with
homes had no access to computers. Eurostat figures disabilities faced particular challenges.
from 2019 indicated that access to broadband inter-
net varies significantly across the EU, ranging from The crisis requires us to rethink how education and
74% of households for the lowest-income quartile training, in all disciplines, are designed and provided to
to 97% in the highest-income quartile. On teacher meet the demands of a rapidly changing and increas-
preparedness, the OECD Teaching and Learning ingly digital world. Quality and inclusive education
International Survey in 2018 showed that only 39% today should be informed by the needs of our current
of educators in the EU felt well or very well prepared and future society. For this, it is important to consider
for using digital technologies in their daily work, with how all phases and stages of education and training
significant differences between Member States. can purposefully and strategically embed digital tech-
nologies into educational practices.
Over the past decades, many initiatives and invest-
ments have been undertaken in educational technol- The COVID-19 crisis shed light on the key enabling
ogy and digital skills development. Despite progress factors for effective digital education and training:
and excellent examples of innovation, these initiatives connectivity and suitable digital equipment for learn-
were often short-lived, or limited in scale and had ers and educators; teachers and trainers that are
marginal impact at system levels. This may, in part, confident and skilled in using digital technology to
be because the potential of digitising education was support their teaching and adapted pedagogy; lead-
not widely visible and understood. The Covid-19 crisis ership; collaboration and the sharing of good practice
put us for the first time in a situation where there was and innovative teaching methods. Experiences from
little choice but use digital technologies to provide this period show that education and training systems
education and training. We have learned a lot, and and institutions that had previously invested in their
many teachers, students and parents faced a steep digital capacity were better prepared to adapt teach-
learning curve. At the same time, this pandemic also ing approaches, keep learners engaged, and continue
exposed the shortcomings that need to be tackled in the education and training process. In particular, the
order to have successfully integrate of digital tech- emergency confirmed the need for all educators to be
nologies in education and training systems. skilled in using digital technologies effectively in their
teaching and training process and to ensure that all
Efforts to curb the outbreak of COVID-19 led to the children can participate in digital education. It has also
closure of education and training buildings, campuses confirmed that different pedagogical approaches are
and other sites and a forced shift to emergency needed when teaching online. Teachers and learners
modes of digital education. These emergency modes also need to develop the skills and know-how for
have included a wide uptake of online and distance this different mode of learning. We are now moving
learning1. This mass and unprecedented use of tech- beyond the unplanned and emergency phase imposed
nology for learning revealed many opportunities for on education providers, teachers, students, families
teachers to organise their teaching differently and to and the education system as a whole. A strategic and
interact with students on a more personalised basis, longer-term approach to digital education and training
focusing on their specific needs. At the same time, should be defined.
many Member States experienced shortcomings in
the system and a widespread lack of digital read-
iness. Although digital technologies enabled many
pupils, students and adult learners to continue learn-
ing, it also proved a major barrier for others when
access, equipment, connectivity or skills were lacking.
In some Member States, the vast majority of educators
and learners had little if any experience of teaching
1. For a glossary of the terms used, see Staff Working Document accompanying this document.
4. In the first Digital Education Action Plan, adopted in in Europe enables the green and digital transitions
2018, the EU addressed digitalisation in education and seizes the benefits of digital transformation while
with a number of measures 2. As digital transition mitigating its risks.
continues and the public health crisis brings new chal-
lenges to the fore, the new Action Plan focuses on the Building on the work of the European Parliament 6,
longer-term digital change in education and training. Council7 and Commission, the Action Plan sets out
measures for high-quality and inclusive digital educa-
As announced in the European Skills Agenda and in tion and training which will require a combination of
the European Education Area Communication, the new actions and policies to be effective. It covers the next
Action Plan presents a vision for improving digital liter- programming period (2021-2027) and sets out priori-
acy, skills and capacity at all levels of education and ties and corresponding actions where the EU can bring
training and for all levels of digital skills (from basic to added value.
advanced). The Action Plan will support the objective
of the Skills Agenda of ensuring that 70% of 16 to
74 year olds should have at least basic digital skills
by 2025. The new Action Plan also supports the goals
of the recently adopted Commission proposal for a
Council Recommendation on vocational education and
training (VET) for sustainable competitiveness, social
fairness and resilience, which has a strong focus on
digital transformation in the vocational education and
training sector.
The Action Plan can benefit 3 from the Erasmus
programme, the European Social Fund, the European
Regional Development Fund and smart specialisation
policies, the Connecting Europe Facility, the Digital
Europe Programme, and Horizon Europe. In addition,
the Action Plan forms part of the EU’s response to the
COVID-19 crisis, to guide the Member States in prior-
itising funding for digital education in the Recovery
and Resilience Facility, where re- and upskilling as well
as boosting very high-capacity broadband4 connectiv-
ity are flagship investments, and other cohesion policy
instruments. It will also inform monitoring under the
European Semester. It will help to support Member
States in their reform efforts, together with possible
technical support for national policy reforms through
the Technical Support Instrument5. The action plan
identifies specific areas where action is particularly
needed to support the recovery and resilience of
education and training and to ensure that education
2. The first digital education action plan was adopted in January 2018 as a part of the vision to establish a European Education Area. It
comprised of 11 actions. For more on this, see the staff working document.
3. This is notwithstanding the final outcome of the interinstitutional negotiation process on the future EU programmes.
4. Hereafter referred to as “broadband”.
5. COM(2020) 409 final
6. For example, the work of the European Parliament’s CULT committee, which has produced relevant reports on digital education, artificial
intelligence and other related aspects.
7. For example, the Council Conclusions on COVID in education under the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
The Commission organised a wide range of stake- Key findings from the open public consultation
holder consultations to inform and gather evidence
for this initiative8. Consultations took place from More than 2700 contributions were received in
February to September 2020 and involved public- the open public consultation on the digital educa-
and private-sector organisations, education and tion action plan, which took place from 18 June to
training organisations and a wide variety of additional 4 September 20209. Experiences of learning during the
stakeholders, including research institutions and civil COVID-19 crisis were at the centre of the consultation,
society. which targeted students; parents and carers; the wider
public; employers and companies and educators and
In the process, education authorities highlighted the education and training institutions10.
need to map, research and learn from responses
to the COVID-19 crisis and identify strengths and
weaknesses of the different approaches and meas-
ures taken. Education authorities and educational
stakeholders also stressed the need for a forum
to exchange practice and experience at EU level. In
addition, they highlighted the need for guidance and 44%  Education and
training institution
support, both for responding to the immediate crisis
and for the recovery period. 21%  Private sector
19%  Civil society
including youth
Stakeholders agreed that the crisis has increased the
need to boost the digital skills of educators. In addi- 6%  Public authority
tion, they called for practical guidelines at European 5%  Research
level – in particular for ministries and education and
5%  Other
training institutions – on how to implement effective
and inclusive distance, online and blended learn-
Contributions to Open Public Consultation divided by respondents
ing. They also highlighted the need for guidance in
replying in organisational capacity by category
certain areas that are particularly challenging, such
as assessment.
Stakeholders called for a more strategic and consist- 44% Educator and staff
ent approach by the EU on digital education, in view 44% Parent
both of the crisis and the ongoing challenges of the
7% Learner
digital transformation. Other key topics that emerged
were the need to use EU funding programmes to 2% Researcher
support connectivity, infrastructure and access to 1% Employer
digital technologies across Member States for both
1% No answer
formal and non-formal settings. Stakeholders also
stressed the need to promote digital literacy, manage 2%  Other
the overload of information and fight disinformation,
which in their view had become an even more serious Contributions to Open Public Consultation divided by respondents
problem during the crisis. replying in personal capacity by category
8. See staff working document.
9. The results of the OPC are different according to category. To observe eventual differences in the replies, two analyses were therefore
conducted: one including results from all respondents and the other excluding respondents from Romania. To transparently report OPC
findings, in all instances the percentage included in the text refers to all respondents. In cases where a more limited sample without
Romania is used this is clearly marked in a corresponding footnote. All percentages are rounded up.
10. The questionnaire was divided in four different parts: collecting information about the respondents (1), questions on education and training
during the COVID-19 crisis and the recovery period (2), respondents’ visions for digital education in Europe (3), and an optional submission
of a position paper (4). In some questions, respondents could select more than one option: in these cases (as opposed to those with only
one answer option) percentages do not add up to 100%. In cases where, a 5-point Likert scale was applied, answers are distributed on five
different categories (2 negative, 2 positive and 1 neutral).
6. According to the consultation, the COVID-19 crisis has This period of massive educational disruption has
led to the widespread use of digital learning practices created a sense of urgency about digital education.
in education and training across the EU. However, 95% of respondents consider the COVID-19 crisis
respondents from several Member States said that to be a ‘turning point’ for how technology is used in
the difficult circumstances of the pandemic meant education and training. It has underlined the need for
that this happened hastily and often in an unplanned high quality digital content being readily available
manner. Measures put in place by Member States and and affordable for learners and educators. It has
institutions to ensure continuity of education ranged also increased the need to engage every person and
from televised lessons to online learning management all parts of the education and training system in a
systems to training using simulations. Approaches common effort to ensure that technology is deployed
varied between and within countries, but also across in an effective way so that it becomes an enabler of –
levels and sectors of education and training. This and not a barrier to – high quality, inclusive education.
reflected differing levels of digital maturity in different
parts of the system. The main areas of concern for
respondents were how to ensure access, equity and The key lesson of the COVID-19 crisis
inclusion. They were worried about the emergence of is that digital education should no longer
digital divides. be viewed as an island of its own but considered
an integral part of all education and training.”
Persons with disabilities also reported difficulties: on — Teacher
the accessibility of technology and digital educational
material; availability of assistive technology; technical Respondents rated teachers’ digital skills and compe-
support provided to students with disabilities and the tences as the most important component of digital
teacher competence on disability and accessibility education, followed by leadership and vision in the
matters. educational institution, suitable digital content and
infrastructure. Learners expressed a need for more
Adult learning providers saw large numbers of interaction and guidance from teachers, greater
students dropping out from courses, in some cases communication with peers, and more support for
this was up to three quarters of the group. In some mental health and well-being. According to respond-
countries, regional or local governments provided ents, students in primary and lower secondary schools
digital equipment and tools to adult learners and (and students who depend more on the physical pres-
providers. Although this helped, these measures did ence of a tutor or teacher) were particularly affected
not match the significant needs of the sector. Some during this period.
providers had to close all activities for several weeks
and months, in particular when work-based learning Parents played an important role in enabling learning,
was involved as it often requires physical presence. as learning and well-being suffered due to the lack
of social interaction and guidance. When assessing
what was needed and not available to them during
The situation at the moment the crisis, they indicated the importance of receiving
is a patchwork. Online teaching must more assistance on how to support their children for
be the same quality for everyone online and distance learning. Parents, from many
and not be linked to the financial Member States, expressed a more negative opinion on
resources of a town or municipality.” the measures taken to ensure continuity of education
and training, compared to educators.
— Parent
My child is a pre-schooler. She is not able to do an
activity by herself without my direct involvement and
help. But I needed to work at the same time.”
— Parent
7. We live in a digital era and this is a huge
advantage. Digital literacy and skills are
essential and should no longer be ignored.
The socio-economic situation of parents played a These skills should be constantly developed
crucial role in their ability to help pupils and students hand-in-hand with the digital infrastructure.
continue the learning process. Parents with higher This is the only way that investment in
education attainment were generally better placed to technology will prove to be efficient.”
help learners with a supportive learning environment
at home. Unengaging learning materials, the lack of — Industry representative
guidance and structure for learning and assessment
led to disengagement among some students, teachers
and parents. According to respondents, online learning According to respondents, digital technology should
resources and content need to be more relevant, inter- be integrated into the education and training system
active and easy to use. Respondents also think that based on a consistent set of quality standards and
these resources should provide relevant skills for the guidelines, ensuring an appropriate mix of digital
labour market, be of high quality, and be recognised and face-to-face learning experiences. While they
by national authorities. considered face-to-face interaction as vital, many
respondents expect the crisis to accelerate the shift
to blended or hybrid education and training.
Digital teaching offers many advantages,
like flexibility and mobility. But there are
risks. Using the screen all day impacts on
concentration and can also be a burden We need to develop better
on mental well-being.” online platforms for learning. The
ones we had to use were acceptable
— Student but still had massive limitations.
We really need to develop better
The crisis period showed how important it is for tools.”
people to be digitally skilled. Around 62% of
respondents felt that they had improved their digital — Student
skills during the crisis, and this percentage was higher
for education and training staff. More than 50% of According to respondents, action at EU level should
respondents plan to take action to further improve support professional development for teachers; guid-
their digital competences in the future. ance on digital education; enhance Member States’
efforts to improve connectivity and infrastructure,
provide support to education and training institutions
Students have improved their digital skills,
for the development of digital education strategies
and for the most part grew to like online learning.
and specific measures for disadvantaged groups.
Many said their communication and digital skills
Respondents from several Member States consider it
had improved in leaps and bounds.”
essential to invest in infrastructure, digital skills, digital
— Teacher literacy, and secure online environments (platforms/
tools) with high-quality content. Respondents said that
Respondents said it was critical to be able to manage educational institutions should do this by making the
the overload of information; and distinguish facts most of innovative solutions offered by private educa-
from false information and other false content online. tion providers and technology developers.
Protecting personal data was also recognised as a
particularly relevant skill by learners and parents. One of the key results of the consultation process was
Digital content creation emerges as the area that that while there is some indication of the wider impact
education and training staff would like to improve in of COVID-19 on education and training, it is still too
the near future, including being able to design and early to conclude on its long-term consequences.
develop their own material. Gathering more experience and conducting research
into the lasting effects over a longer time period is
therefore necessary.
With digital change accelerating, it is essential that ‣‣ Appropriate investment in connectivity, equip-
education and training systems adjust accordingly. ment and organisational capacity and skills
While responsibility for content of teaching and the should ensure that everybody has access to
organisation of education systems lies primarily with digital education. Education is a fundamental
Member States, recent years have seen a growing human right and access to it has to be guaranteed,
momentum to share and exchange best practices independent of the environment in which it takes
on digital education; and develop common tools and place – physical, digital or a combination of both.
frameworks at EU level. Combining forces and working The right to quality and inclusive education and
together on digital education has never been more training and lifelong learning is the first principle
vital. The EU can play a more active role in identify- of the European Pillar of Social Rights, while the
ing, sharing and scaling good practice and support- fifth principle of the Pillar gives workers a right
ing Member States and the education and training to training.
communities as a whole with tools, frameworks,
guidance, technical expertise and research. ‣‣ Digital education should play a pivotal role in
increasing equality and inclusiveness. Digital
The COVID-19 crisis has brought greater awareness of skills are essential to be able to develop and
the need to improve the use of technology in education deploy digitally accessible and inclusive systems.
and training; to adapt pedagogies and develop digital Likewise, lack of digital skills and lack of accessi-
skills. The following guiding principles are essential to bility has meant that many disadvantaged groups,
ensure that education and training adjust to the digital teachers, and families were unable to continue
transformation and further improve the quality and work and learning during lockdown. Not only has
inclusiveness of education in Europe. this increased the risk of poverty and disadvantage
but also it has widened inequality in education
‣‣ High quality and inclusive digital education, and training.
which respects the protection of personal data
and ethics, needs to be a strategic goal of all ‣‣ Digital competence should be a core skill for
bodies and agencies active in education and all educators and training staff and should be
training. Before the pandemic, digital education embedded in all areas of teacher professional
was often the responsibility of a team or division development, including initial teacher education.
within educational institutions, ministries or public Educators are highly knowledgeable and skilled
bodies. The crisis has demonstrated that digital professionals that need the confidence and skills
education is not a marginal issue but a central to use technology effectively and creatively to
component of learning, teaching and assessment engage and motivate their learners, support the
in the 21st century. All players in education need acquisition of digital skills by learners and to
to strategically reflect on how digital technologies ensure that digital tools and platform used are
can be embedded into education and training. accessible to all learners. Teachers and trainers
should have access to ongoing opportunities for
‣‣ Transforming education for the digital age is a professional learning and development tailored to
task for the whole society. This transformation their needs and their discipline. Digital teaching
should include an enhanced dialogue and stronger methods and innovation in digital education should
partnerships between educators, the private sector, be embedded throughout all initial teacher educa-
researchers, municipalities, and public authorities. tion programmes and promoted in the education
Parents, companies, civil society and learners and training of youth workers.
themselves, including younger learners, should
be more closely involved in efforts to make high ‣‣ Education leaders play a key role in digital
quality, accessible and inclusive digital education education. They need to understand how and
and training a reality for all. This should be under- where digital technologies can enhance education;
pinned by evidence and data to monitor progress provide appropriate resources and investment;
and improve our understanding of the challenges empower educators; learn from best practice and
and opportunities of the digital transformation in support relevant organisational change and a
education. culture that values and rewards innovation and
9. experimentation. Education and training systems ‣‣ There is a need for high-quality education
need to evolve and adapt and this requires all content to boost the relevance, quality and
players, including institutional leadership and deci- inclusiveness of European education and train-
sion makers in policy, to lead this change. ing at all levels. Education institutions have an
increasingly important role as providers of lifelong
‣‣ Digital literacy is essential for life in a digi- learning. Digital technology should be harnessed
talised world. With computers and algorithms to facilitate the provision of flexible, accessible
mediating many daily activities, it is important learning opportunities, including for adult learners
to educate people at all ages about the impact and professionals, helping them to re-skill, upskill
of digital technology on well-being and the way or change careers. More ambitious efforts are
technology systems work. This is instrumental needed in the areas of digital education content,
to developing an understanding of the risks and tools and platforms11. These efforts should encour-
opportunities of digital technology and encourag- age the uptake, quality assurance, validation, and
ing healthy, safe and meaningful uses of digital recognition of courses and learning opportunities
technology. Information overload and the lack of in all sectors of education and training. This can
effective ways to verify information make it all be supported through micro-credentials which
the more necessary for individuals to be able to capture the learning outcomes of short-term
critically approach, assess and filter information learning. In this regard, the Commission is devel-
and be more resilient against manipulation. Digital oping a European approach for micro-credentials.
education and skills should also take into account
environmental and climate impacts of the devel-
opment and use of digital equipment and services.
‣‣ Basic digital skills should become part of the core
transferable skills that any citizen should have to
be able to develop personally; engage in society
as an active citizen; use public services; and exer-
cise basic rights. A sound understanding of the
digital world should be part of the formal and
non-formal education provided in every education
and training institution. Essential public services
are increasingly delivered through e-government
making basic digital skills indispensable for every-
day life. Digital skills should also include a green
dimension, taking into account environment and
climate impacts in the use and development of
digital equipment and services.
‣‣ To support competitiveness, we need people to
have the latest advanced digital skills to support
the twin digital and green transitions of society,
public services, and all parts of the economy. The
deployment of technologies is affecting jobs and
everyday life. This makes it even more important
to invest in lifelong learning by promotion, provi-
sion and recognition of upskilling and re-skilling
for the digital economy.
11. Centres of Vocational Excellence, funded by Erasmus foster excellence in vocational education and training, and can act as a technology
diffusion centre for companies, including on digital learning tools.
The EU should ambitiously address the opportunities Very high-capacity internet connectivity is critical
and challenges of digital transformation in education for education. Demand for connectivity is increasing
and training. The guiding principles above underpin due to bandwidth-heavy applications such as video
two strategic priorities to be taken forward at the EU streaming, video conferencing, cloud computing, and
level, while fully upholding the principle of subsidiarity: other emerging applications (such as virtual and
augmented reality). Bringing fast and reliable inter-
net to educational institutions and learners plays an
Strategic priority 1 important role in ensuring effective and engaging
learning experiences. This means ensuring that inter-
Fostering the development of a high- net access is not confined to a specific classroom or
performing digital education ecosystem computer lab. Moreover, educators consider reliable
Wi-Fi access as a pre-requisite if they are to use tech-
Promoting high-quality and inclusive digital educa- nology with confidence in their teaching. The recent
tion must be a common endeavour across society. period of educational disruption and closure of phys-
Governments, education and training institutions, the ical sites has underlined the need for learners to be
private sector and the public all need to be engaged able to access devices and the internet to continue
in this endeavour in order to develop a high-perform- with their learning at home or in other settings.
ing digital education ecosystem. Policies relevant for
digital education need to be better connected and the Digital education content and training in digital
EU can contribute to this work at all levels. The Annual skills – including digital teaching methods – will
Sustainable Growth Strategy 202112 has, in fact, high- be essential for staff. They will benefit from stronger
lighted the need for unprecedented investments in support for online, in-person or blended teaching,
skills and connectivity and made each of them one of depending on the context and needs of the learner.
the seven flagship investments for the Recovery and Educators should be empowered to adopt innovative
Resilience Facility. Key players, in particular teachers methods; have the awareness of environmental and
and trainers, should be better equipped and trained climate impact of digital technologies and services to
to participate more effectively in the digital transfor- make most sustainable choices collaborate; engage in
mation of education and understand the opportunities peer learning and share their experiences. A trusted
this can bring, when used effectively. digital education ecosystem requires high-quality
content, user-friendly tools, value-adding services and
Effective digital capacity planning and develop- secure platforms that maintain privacy and uphold
ment is vital for education and training systems. ethical standards. Accessibility, inclusiveness and
This requires the development and ongoing review and learner-centred design are vital. The development of
updating of digital strategies addressing technology European digital educational content should promote
gaps in infrastructure, devices and developing rele- the highest pedagogical and educational quality and
vant organisational capabilities in education, including respect the diversity and cultural richness of the
the capacity to deliver hybrid modes of learning and Member States.
teaching (remote and on-site). Capacity should be
developed to ensure accessibility to assistive technol- To support a high-performing digital education
ogies and accessible digital content and more gener- ecosystem, the European Commission will pursue
ally address unequal access, e.g. on socio-economic the following actions13:
or rural-urban grounds. Institutionalised support is
essential for such planning and development, as are
interdisciplinary teams including management, tech-
nologists and instructional designers, with the needs
and experience of education and training staff at the
12. COM(2020) 575 final.
13. The financing of certain initiatives may be subject to the adoption of the basic acts of the respective programmes and will be implemented
in accordance with their rules.
11. 1 Launch a strategic dialogue with Member 3 Develop a European Digital Education Content
States in order to prepare a possible proposal Framework that will build on European cultural
for a Council Recommendation by 2022 on and creative diversity and include guiding prin-
the enabling factors for successful digital ciples for specific sectors of education and their
education, including: needs (such as high-quality instructional design,
accessibility, recognition and multilingualism)
•• tackling connectivity gaps while reflecting the need for the interoperability,
(using EU funding as well as Member certification, verification and transferability of
State and private funding); content. Launch a feasibility study on the
•• tackling equipment gaps creation of a European exchange platform14
(using EU funding as well as Member to share certified online resources (such as
State and private funding and setting up massive, open online courses) and link existing
schemes to reuse suitable hardware from education platforms.15
public administration and enterprises in
schools); 4 Support, where necessary, Gigabit connec-
•• supporting education and training institutions tivity of schools, as well as connectivity in
with know-how on how to adapt and digitise schools16 under the Connecting Europe Facility
in an inclusive manner (using relevant EU Programme. Carry out Connectivity4Schools
tools and instruments); awareness raising actions on funding oppor-
•• addressing accessibility and availability tunities. Encourage Member States to include
of assistive technologies; broadband in investment and reform projects
•• encouraging Member States to foster in national recovery and resilience plans
closer dialogue on digital education under the Recovery and Resilience Facility,
between stakeholders in the economy in line with the European Connect flagship.
and education institutions; Make the most of EU support with regard to
•• encouraging Member States to develop internet access, purchase of digital equipment
guidelines for digital pedagogy, drawn and e-learning applications and platforms for
from best practice and experience, and schools and in particular for students from
upskilling their teachers; disadvantaged groups and for students and
educators with disabilities.
2 Drawing on lessons from the COVID-19 crisis,
propose a Council Recommendation on
online and distance learning for primary and
secondary education by the end of 2021. This
would help develop a shared understanding at
EU level of the approaches needed for distance,
online and blended learning that is effective,
inclusive and engaging.
14. This European Exchange Platform reflects proposals for a MOOC (massive open online course) platform by different stakeholders during the
stakeholder consultation process. See Staff Working Document pp. 39-40.
15. This will take into account the ongoing work on Europass learning opportunities and the development of the Digital Skills and Jobs Platform.
16. As one of the socio-economic drivers, the coverage of schools with Gigabit symmetric links is foreseen in the EU’s strategic objectives for
2025 and is eligible under the Connecting Europe Facility 2.
12. 5 Use Erasmus cooperation projects17 to Strategic priority 2
support the digital transformation plans of
primary, secondary, vocational education and Enhancing digital skills and competences
training (VET), higher18, and adult-education for the digital transformation
institutions. Support digital pedagogy and
expertise in the use of digital tools for A changing society and the transition to a green
teachers, including accessible and assistive and digital economy require solid digital compe-
technologies and digital content, through tences. Boosting digital skills at all levels helps
Erasmus Teacher Academies and launch an increase growth and innovation and build a fairer,
online self-assessment tool for teachers, more cohesive, sustainable and inclusive society.
SELFIE for Teachers19, based on the European Being digitally skilled and acquiring digital literacy
Framework for Digital Competence of can empower people of all ages to be more resilient,
Educators to help identify strengths and gaps improve participation in democratic life and stay safe
in their digital, technical and teaching skills. and secure online. Equipping Europe’s workers and job
seekers with digital skills will be critical for economic
6 To promote understanding of emerging recovery in the coming years. In addition to digital
technologies and their applications in skills, the digital economy requires also complemen-
education, develop ethical guidelines on tary skills such as adaptability, communication and
artificial intelligence (AI) and data usage collaboration skills, problem-solving, critical thinking,
in teaching and learning for educators creativity, entrepreneurship and readiness to learn.
and support related research and innovation
activities through Horizon Europe20. This will Digital literacy has become essential for everyday
build on the Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy life. A sound understanding of digital information,
Artificial Intelligence21. The guidelines will including personal data, is vital to navigate a world
be accompanied by a training programme increasingly infused with algorithms. Education should
for researchers and students on the ethical more actively help learners to develop the ability to
aspects of AI and include a target of 45% of critically approach, filter and assess information,
female participation in the training activities. notably to identify disinformation and to manage
overload of information as well as develop financial
literacy. Education and training institutions can help
build resilience to information overload and disinfor-
mation, which becomes more widespread in times of
crisis and major societal upheaval. Countering disin-
formation and harmful speech through education and
training is crucial for effective participation in society
and democratic processes, especially by young people.
More than 40% of young people consider that critical
thinking, media and democracy are not ‘taught suffi-
ciently’ in school. The challenge is particularly relevant
for younger students, nearly all of whom are online
every day.
17. This will include in particular Erasmus Key Action 2 projects.
18. In higher education, this can be implemented through a series of strategic reviews on digital transformation for higher education institutions
(HEIs), building on the HEInnovate initiative, targeting the innovation capacity development of HEIs.
19. This initiative will build on the Commission’s highly successful tool, SELFIE for schools, which has been used by more than 670 000
teachers, students and school leaders to review how technologies are used in their school and plan for improvement. SELFIE
(Selfreflection on Effective Learning by Fostering the use of Innovative Educational Technologies) can be used by any primary, secondary
or VET school anywhere in the world and is available in 32 language versions. New features and support material for schools are added on
an ongoing basis:
20. Focus areas include artificial intelligence, data, virtual reality, augmented reality etc.
13. Computing education 22 in schools allows young For this reason, the Commission proposal for a rein-
people to gain a sound understanding of the digital forced Youth Guarantee recommends an assess-
world. Introducing pupils to computing from an early ment of digital skills of NEETs registering in the Youth
age, through innovative and motivating approaches Guarantee, and on the basis of gaps identified, to offer
to teaching, in both formal and non-formal settings, them a dedicated preparatory digital training.
can help develop skills in problem-solving, creativity
and collaboration. It can also foster interest in STEM- To thrive in a technology-driven economy, Europeans
related studies and future careers while tackling need digital skills. Everyone, including students, job
gender stereotypes. Actions to promote high quality seekers and workers, will need to be digitally skilled
and inclusive computing education can also impact and confident to succeed in a rapidly changing envi-
positively on the number of girls pursuing IT-related ronment and adapt to new and emerging technologies.
studies in higher education and, further on, working Levels of digital skills in the EU are still low, albeit
in the digital sector or digital jobs in other economic gradually improving, while the digital transformation
sectors. is accelerating. 90% of jobs in all sectors in the future
will require some form of digital skills, yet 35% of
A solid and scientific understanding of the digital Europe’s workers lack these skills. Demand for digital
world can build on, and complement, broader digital skills will grow with skills in demand ranging from
skills development. It can also help young people to basic to advanced, and including AI, data literacy,
see the potential and limitations of computing for supercomputing and cybersecurity.
solving societal challenges. Yet, many young people
in Europe still leave school without any exposure to Advanced digital skills26 are in high demand. The
computing education23. Efforts to improve computing Digital Opportunity Traineeship initiative, which has
education in schools require a partnership approach, been running since 2018, has provided students and
involving higher education, non-formal education, recent graduates with the opportunity to acquire
including libraries, Makerspaces and Fablabs24, as well hands-on digital experience in industry. This scheme,
and industry and education research. EU Code Week25, which has trained over 12 000 students with both
which grows year on year, is an excellent initiative basic and advanced digital skills, will be scaled up
to introduce a wide and diverse audience to coding, to include teachers, trainers and other educational
programming and digital creativity more widely. staff by offering them professional development
opportunities in digital education. The scheme will
In 2019, a fifth of young persons in Europe reported also be extended to include traineeships for learners
not to have basic digital skills, with young people with and apprentices from the VET sector, as VET systems
low education levels more than three times as likely are well placed to respond to the skills challenges of
to underachieve in digital skills than their peers with digitalisation. The development of advanced digital
higher levels of education. This is preventing many young skills is also one of the objectives of the Digital Europe
people from participating fully in the labour market. programme. In addition, the SME Strategy contributes
through the Digital Volunteers and the Digital Crash
Courses, targeting specifically the current workforce.
22. Also known as informatics or computer science in many countries.
23. Work will begin in October 2020 to update the study by the European Commission on computational thinking from 2016. This will be accompanied by a
mapping of computer science education in compulsory education to identify trends and shared challenges, with a view to proposing a
common set of principles to improve the overall quality and inclusiveness of computer science education in the EU.
24. For more on the role of Makerspaces and Fablabs see the Commission’s report
26. The Commission proposal for a digital Europe programme defined them by saying: ‘Advanced digital skills are specialised skills, i.e. skills
in designing, developing, managing and deploying technologies such as high performance computing (HPC), artificial intelligence and
cybersecurity’ COM/2018/434 final - 2018/0227.
14. All Member States face shortages of digital experts, women do not take jobs to in the ICT domain, and
including data analysts, cybersecurity analysts, soft- making these curricula and careers more attractive
ware developers, digital accessibility specialists and to girls and women. Such insights can only benefit the
machine-learning experts. 58% of companies that teaching and development of digital technologies, as
wish to hire digital specialists report difficulties in well as the objective of the SME Strategy to increase
recruiting, and 78% of companies cite a lack of appro- women entrepreneurship.
priate skills as the main barrier to new investment27.
Research by the Commission shows that there is scope Everyone should acquire a basic understanding
for increasing the EU-based Master’s programmes in of new and emerging technologies including AI.
artificial intelligence and cybersecurity28. This will give This will help them to engage positively, critically
access to high-quality and relevant learning oppor- and safely with this technology, and be aware of
tunities in advanced digital areas throughout the EU. potential issues related to ethics, environmental
More needs to be done to promote professions and sustainability, data protection and privacy, children
careers in the digital sector. Although many efforts rights, discrimination and bias, including gender bias
and initiatives are underway, including by professional and disability and ethnic and racial discrimination.
computer societies and the European Committee for Stronger representation and participation of young
Standardisation on IT professionalism and digital people, women and underrepresented groups in AI
competences29, on-going efforts must be recognised, research and the AI industry should also be encour-
promoted and scaled-up. aged by supporting existing initiatives and promoting
knowledge sharing and collaboration. To understand
Women accounted for 54% of all tertiary students the applications and implications of AI for education,
in the EU in 2017, yet they are particularly under- both educators and students need new skills, including
represented in the digital sectors. Women hold basic AI and data literacy skills. Education and training
only 17% of tech sector jobs. Although girls gener- institutions need to be aware of the opportunities and
ally perform better than boys in the Programme challenges created by AI. The Commission will launch
for International Student Assessment (PISA) and an awareness campaign for learners and education
International Computer and Information Literacy and training institutions (secondary, VET and higher
Study (ICILS) international skills tests, they can veer education) to promote awareness of the opportunities
away from STEM subjects with age. This affects their and challenges created by AI31.
participation in higher education, where only one in
three STEM graduates is a woman. Teachers, parents, To improve the development of digital
and STEM professionals need to engage, motivate and competences, the European Commission
inspire female students as greater inclusion of women will pursue the following actions:
in the digital economy and increased diversity in the
labour market can bring social and economic value
for Europe’s competitiveness, growth and innovation.
Efforts to tackle gender stereotypes and gender bias in
the digital sector are also much needed for improved
gender balance in the sector. Initiatives such as the
‘Women in Digital’ strategy and WeGate30 already work
towards achieving these objectives but efforts need to
be stepped up in order to make more progress. On top
of these strategies to attract more women to ICT jobs,
there is also a need to understand better why more
27. EIB investment report 2019
28. JRC (2019): Academic offer and demand for advanced profiles in the EU: Artificial Intelligence, High Performance Computing and
29. CEN Technical Committee 428
30. See and
31. With a view to reaching 1% of EU learners and teachers by 2022 and 1% of the EU population by 2024 or 2027.
15. 7 Develop common guidelines for teachers through a focus on inclusive high-quality
and educational staff to foster digital computing education (informatics) at all
literacy and tackle disinformation through levels of education and fostering dialogue
education and training. This should be with industry on identifying and updating
done in close cooperation with stakeholders new and emerging skills needs, in synergy
through a multi-stakeholder group, bringing with the Skills Agenda.
together civil society organisations, European
technology companies and carriers, jour- 11 Improve monitoring and support the
nalists, media and broadcasters, the Media cross-national collection of data on
Literacy Expert Group and the European student digital skills through participation
Digital Media Observatory, national authori- in the ICILS34 to better understand gaps and
ties, education and training institutions, Safer strengthen the evidence base for actions
Internet Centres, educators, parents and to address these gaps. This will include
young people. This will be done in line with introducing an EU target for student digital
the upcoming Media Action Plan. competence to reduce the share of 13-14
year old students who underperform in
8 Update the European Digital Competence computer and information literacy to under
Framework32 with a view to including AI and 15% by 2030.
data-related skills. Support the development
of AI learning resources for schools, VET 12 Incentivise advanced digital skills develop-
organisations, and other training providers. ment through targeted measures including
Raise awareness on the opportunities and scaling up the Digital Opportunity trainee-
challenges of AI for education and training. ships by extending them to VET learners and
apprentices, and offering professional devel-
9 Develop a European Digital Skills opment opportunities for teachers, trainers
Certificate (EDSC) that may be recognised and other educational staff in school, VET,
and accepted by governments, employers adult and higher education.
and other stakeholders across Europe. This
would allow Europeans to indicate their level 13 Encourage women’s participation in STEM,
of digital competences, corresponding to the in cooperation with the European Institute of
Digital Competence Framework proficiency Innovation and Technology (EIT)35; support
levels33. the EU STEM Coalition to develop new higher
education curricula for engineering and
10 Propose a Council recommendation on information and communications technology
improving the provision of digital skills based on the STEAM approach36 to be more
in education and training. This will include attractive for women and increase their
using EU tools to invest in teacher profes- participation and career development in
sional development; exchange of best STEM subjects and IT.
practice on instructional methods, including
32. See digital competence framework for citizens, with eight proficiency levels and examples of use.‌digcomp-21-digital-competence-framework-citizens-
33. The EDSC will be supported by a self-assessment approach.
34. The assessment will be performed by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), which is responsible
for the ICILS study. The ICILS, or International Computer and Information Literacy Study (ICILS), directly measures students’ computer and
information literacy, but does not yet cover all Member States. It is already used in seven Member States.
35. With a view to reach up to 40 000 female students in areas such as health; food; urban mobility; added-value manufacturing; climate
change; sustainable energy; digital technologies; raw materials.
36. The STEAM approach for learning and teaching links STEM and other fields of study. It promotes cross-cutting, ‘transversal’ skills such
as digital skills, critical thinking, problem-solving, management, and entrepreneurship. It also promotes cooperation with non-academic
partners and responds to economic, environmental, political and social challenges. STEAM encourages the blending of knowledge that is
required in the real world and natural curiosity.
The Action Plan sets out a co-ordinated policy 14 Establish a European Digital
response at EU level with actions, investment, and Education Hub to:
support measures designed to have greater impact
than isolated initiatives at Member State level. Its •• support Member States by setting up a
implementation will be ensured as part of the enabling network of national advisory services on
framework for the European Education Area and will digital education to exchange experience
involve relevant working groups and arrangements. and good practice on the enabling factors of
This will involve actors at various levels (EU, national, digital education; link national and regional
regional, local) and engage the public more closely digital-education initiatives and strategies;
through direct communication channels and oppor- and connect national authorities, the private
tunities for co-creation. sector, experts, education and training
providers and civil society through various
In response to the lessons learnt from the COVID-19 activities;
crisis and the longer-term objectives of this action •• monitor the implementation of the Action
plan, the Commission will support Member States Plan and the development of digital
and their education and training systems through education in Europe including through results
closer cooperation and a more focused discussion and from EU-supported projects37 and share
exchange on digital education at the EU level. This good practice by contributing to research
is necessary to enable strategic collaboration with experimentation and systematic collection
relevant stakeholders across regions, Member States and analysis of empirical evidence, in part
and the EU. through peer learning;
•• support cross-sector collaboration and
In order to improve cooperation on digital education new models for the seamless exchange of
at the EU level, the Commission will: digital learning content, addressing issues
such as interoperability, quality assurance,
environmental sustainability, accessibility
and inclusion and common standards for
digital education;
•• support the agile development of policy and
practice by being a think-and-do-tank for
digital education and engaging stakeholders
in user-driven innovation through the Digital
Education Hackathon.
37. In particular those funded under Erasmus, Digital Europe, InvestEU and Horizon Europe
17. Monitoring and evaluation will be ensured as part of In higher education, the European Universities initia-
the European Education Area governance framework. tive will develop virtual and face-to-face EU inter-uni-
This will provide transparency and accountability in versity campuses. In so doing, this initiative will imple-
the implementation of the Action Plan. Key perfor- ment innovative models of digital higher education.
mance indicators will apply for each action to help The European Student Card Initiative will play a key
assess progress and – where necessary – adjust and role to facilitate the secure electronic exchange and
adapt. The Commission will undertake a comprehen- verification of student data and academic records,
sive review of the Digital Education Action Plan in becoming a real differentiator for higher education
2024 to assess its outreach and impact. On the basis institutions by simplifying the management of their
of this review, the Commission will propose additional students’ mobility. It will allow students to identify and
or new measures if necessary. authenticate themselves online in a secure and trusted
manner based on the EU's electronic identification
As digitalisation advances, the Action Plan provides rules (eIDAS regulation)38 when carrying out online
the policy context and strategic guidance to increase learning activities at a host institution in another
the digital impact of the Erasmus programme. Member State. By connecting universities’ various IT
Blended mobility will be ‘mainstreamed’ (i.e. inte- systems, we will achieve a paperless Erasmus mobility
grated) into the Erasmus programme by introducing in full respect of General Data Protection Rules.
a ‘virtual learning’ component to Erasmus and further
strengthening successful initiatives such as e-Twin-
ning for schools. This will help bring together learners
and teachers from different countries to work online
collectively on common projects. This will complement
physical mobility and help improve the digital skills of
educators and learners. It will also improve the quality
of the overall digital learning experience. In addition,
greater use will be made of virtual exchanges between
young people and education institutions in Europe, and
around the world, to further engage young people
in intercultural dialogue and improve their soft skills.
38. Regulation (EU) N°910/2014 on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market (eIDAS
Regulation) adopted on 23 July 2014 provides a predictable regulatory environment to enable secure and seamless electronic interactions
between businesses, citizens and public authorities. Currently, there is an ongoing review of the Regulation.
Successful implementation of the Action Plan will The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the global digi-
include working in close partnership and cooperation tal divide. Strengthening international cooperation on
with the European Parliament and Member States, digital education must be an integral part of the EU as
with the active involvement of the Committee of the a global partner on education. This will be reflected in
Regions and local authorities. For Member States, EU international cooperation programmes at global,
closer cooperation will help to overcome policy regional and bilateral level, including in the interna-
fragmentation that can undermine effective digital tional dimension of Erasmus+. In particular, the EU,
education policies. It is also necessary to strengthen under a Team Europe approach, will promote global
and coordinate work across sectors and policy areas. cooperation, while simultaneously addressing its stra-
The Commission will therefore support collaboration tegic goals in priority regions, notably the western
and networking at EU level between national enti- Balkans, Africa, and the Neighbourhood regions of
ties dedicated to digital education. This will help to the Eastern Partnership and the South Mediterranean,
promote the exchange of good practice through peer based, amongst others, on the experience gained in the
learning and support a more consistent and structured context of the Digital4Development Hub. Digital trans-
approach to digital education policies. formation will play a central role in relaunching and
modernising the economies of the Western Balkans
The Commission will also organise outreach events, in line with the digital agenda for the Western
in the form of a stakeholder forum, with the aim of Balkans 39. Similarly, the Commission supports the
increasing participation – and creating a sense of efforts of the Eastern Partnership countries through
ownership – by a wide range of stakeholders. The the EU4Digital Initiative and its facility. It will foster
events will bring together Member States, EU institu- sustainable development and deliver concrete benefits
tions, and education stakeholders (including teacher to African partners while exchanging best practices
and parent organisations, local authorities, civil within the framework of the Africa Europe Alliance.
society groups, and businesses – including compa-
nies committed to the digital education agenda) to
exchange best practice and discuss emerging chal-
lenges and opportunities.
Digital education can be an important tool for the
EU internationally, through sharing and scaling up
good practice and building communities of practice
through collaboration and EU-supported projects. A
well-functioning education system is at the heart of
the European way of life and is essential for the pros-
perity and stability of the EU, Member States and our
partner countries. Digital education initiatives have
the potential to help strengthen relations between the
partner countries and the EU, but also to strengthen
relations within different non-EU regions. An open
and high-performing digital education ecosystem in
the EU can help attract and nurture excellence from
around the world as the global competition for talent
and innovation accelerates. This can help increase the
innovation performance of the EU and its Member
The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting heavily on
education and training systems. In highly difficult
circumstances it has accelerated the digital trans-
formation and triggered rapid, large-scale change.
Developments that could have taken years happened
in just a few weeks. We are now faced with both chal-
lenges and opportunities. This means we need to use
the lessons of recent months to step up our efforts
and gradually evolve from temporary, emergency-fo-
cused remote education to more effective, sustainable
and equitable digital education, as part of creative,
flexible, modern and inclusive education and training.
This process should be informed by contemporary
teaching practices and research.
Member States should build on the momentum of
recent months to develop higher quality, more acces-
sible and more inclusive digital teaching, learning
and assessment. In particular, Member States should
make full use of the European Union’s Recovery and
Resilience Facility for adapting their education and
training systems to the digital age. This will help to
ensure that all Europeans, whether they live in urban
or rural areas, in the periphery or in capital regions,
and regardless of their age, have the digital skills they
need to live, work, learn and thrive in the 21st century.
Transforming education and training systems is a key
part of the vision for a Europe fit for the digital age.
However, such transformation will not happen from
one day to the next. It requires strategic and concerted
action, as well as the pooling of resources, investment
and political will to move ahead at EU and national
level. Making the digital leap in education and train-
ing will be vital for people to achieve their potential
without leaving anyone behind. It will also be vital for
proving the effectiveness, relevance and legitimacy of
education and training systems in preparing for – and
shaping – the future.
The Commission invites the European Parliament and
the Council to endorse this Digital Education Action
Plan as the basis for cooperation and joint action to
address the challenges and opportunities for educa-
tion and training in the digital age.
20. © European Union, 2020
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