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Commission's focus on access to high-speed internet, safety and skills is what Europeans want, survey shows

European Commission strategies for boosting digital connectivity and skills are targeting real needs in the single market, according to the results of a comprehensive study of ICT in education published this week.

photo of pupils in a library working on computer screens with teacher

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Survey of Schools: ICT in Education

The survey of head teachers, teachers, students and parents from the 28 EU Member States, Norway, Iceland and Turkey covered a wide range of topics, including access to digital technologies, the use of digital technologies by teachers and pupils, the digital home environment of students and schools’ digital policies.

Among the key findings are that:

  • Fewer than one in five European students attend schools that have access to high-speed internet above 100 mbps
  • 79% of lower secondary school students and 76% of upper secondary school students never or almost never engage in coding or programming at school
  • More than six out of 10 European students are taught by teachers who expand their knowledge through ICT training courses in their own time
  • Only about half of students attending secondary schools have parents that feel they know enough about their child’s online behaviour

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, said:

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. By tackling specific, identified needs on key issues such as high-speed connectivity, coding, internet safety and skills training, the study will help us ensure we step up our work in this direction, and make a success of Europe’s ongoing digital transformation.

Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport commented: 

Digital technologies can be used to support innovative ways of teaching, connecting students to the world outside the classroom and helping them become creative thinkers and problem solvers. 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.

The survey helps underline the scale of the challenge. The Commission has proposed that all schools should have access to gigabit internet connectivity by 2025 in order to take full advantage of technological advances and innovative teaching methods from online learning platforms to video streaming. Yet with few schools still able to connect at speeds of 100mbps, let alone the 1000mbps that needed for gigabit connectivity, there is still a lot of work to do to make sure this target is met in the next five years. This is why the Commission has proposed investing in high-speed internet access across the EU through its Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) programme for 2021-2027.

A similar gap is revealed by the survey when it comes to digital skills in schools, especially among girls. The fact many of the students surveyed do not have an opportunity to learn coding  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. The Commission wants to see 50% of schools in Europe taking part in Code Week events by 2020 with the aim of providing more opportunities for students to learn coding. There is a particular need to increase the participation of girls: the study shows that on average, more than 80% of girls never or almost never learn coding at school. Coding is only one area where women and girls are massively under-represented, and the Commission is working hard to get more women interested in the wider digital sector by focusing on three areas: the image of women in the media, improving digital skills for girls and women and increasing the number of female tech entrepreneurs.

Teacher training

The digital skills of teachers are also highlighted in the study. Digital is a fast moving sector, and teachers need to develop their skills on an ongoing basis if they are to use technologies effectively. Yet the study shows that more structured training programmes on teaching with digital technologies are needed to support teachers. The Commission is also acting to help teachers’ professional development and the further integration of ICT in education through its Erasmus+ programme, which offers many tools for exchanging best practices, peer learning and professional development of teachers at EU level (e.g. through the eTwinning network, School Education Gateway and the new SELFIE online tool to help schools assess how they are using digital technologies for teaching and learning). But the survey findings show that more work at both EU and national levels will be needed to further scale-up and promote these initiatives among schools, teachers and policy-makers.

The role of parents

Parents have always had an important role to play in the education of their children, and in this new era of ever-present digital technology this is more relevant than ever before. Unlike their parents, most students today were born in a completely digitised world. The results of the survey reveal that the majority of European parents nevertheless believe that digital technologies can help their children to study more efficiently and prepare them for the future: over 90% of European students have parents who believe that the use of ICT at school will potentially help their child find a job in the labour market. Parents can also play a key role in helping their children face the challenges digital technologies may bring, including online threats - although the study shows that only about half of students attending secondary schools regularly discuss online risks with their parents. To promote a safe and responsible use of technologies, the Commission is implementing a strategy for a Better Internet for Kids, co-funding Safer Internet Centres in Member States to raise awareness and foster digital literacy among minors, teachers and parents. This includes the annual Safer Internet Day, a worldwide event celebrated in over 150 countries aiming to raise awareness of online safety, and the #SaferInternet4EU awareness raising campaign which reached 30 million EU citizens in 2018.

Full survey results


The second Survey of Schools: ICT in Education questioned nearly 85,000 head teachers, teachers, students and parents from EU28, Norway, Iceland and Turkey on a wide range of different topics. The survey follows the call in the Commission’s Digital Education Action Plan to provide more data and evidence regarding digitisation in education and digital technologies in learning. 

The online survey covered four different target groups at three different ISCED levels (ISCED level 1: primary schools: ISCED level 2: lower secondary schools; ISCED level 3: upper secondary schools). In each school, interviews were conducted with head teachers, class teachers, students and parents.

In this respect, the results of the 2nd Survey of Schools: ICT in education contribute towards the development of updated, relevant and efficient indicators as well as to the establishment of a long-term and continuous monitoring system in the field of digital education at school. The survey was conducted in a partnership between Deloitte and IPSOS and builds upon the European Commission’s first Survey of Schools: ICT in Education from 2013.