Providing access to computers is not enough to boost skills, says OECD

Providing access to computers in schools is not enough and governments will need to review life-long teaching to keep up with the pace of automation that threatens many jobs, according to a major report.

The report, Thriving in a Digital World by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development does not specifically focus on Ireland but argues the debate in many countries has already moved on from online access to boosting life-long learning.

Teaching technology will help citizens get the most out of digitalisation, inside and outside work, says the report. Citing Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden, it says only “a small” number of countries have got teaching digital skills right, and their citizens are “well equipped with adequate skills and supported by effective lifelong learning systems”.

Japan and Korea could do better, while a long list of countries, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, the Slovak Republic, and Turkey, need to do much better to prepare their citizens for digital skills.

The OECD urges governments to rethink how they teach technology in schools, warning that “mere access to and use of computers is not enough to enhance student performance”.

And it says that for adults, access to “massive open online courses” would help upgrade skills throughout life, helping citizens “thrive in a digital world”.

“New digital technologies, including information and communication technologies, artificial intelligence and robotics, are reshaping the way people live, work and learn. “Digitalisation presents immense potential to boost productivity and improve well-being. It can give people more power over what they learn, where and when they work, and how they engage in society,” according to the report.

“However, it can also increase inequalities if some people or regions are left behind.

“By improving the skills of their populations, countries can ensure the new technologies translate into better outcomes for all. This requires a comprehensive and co-ordinated policy intervention, with skills-related policies as the cornerstone of this package.”

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