At a recent summit, President Barack Obama said the US needs to “yank our schools into the 21st century when it comes to technology.” France, it would appear, is even further behind when it comes to digitalising schools, and whilst the deployment of new technologies in schools is on the increase, such as the Lycée Sainte-Marie in Aix-en-Provence, where all students have iPads, these are still fairly rare examples.
And yet digital can offer a number of benefits for education: in addition to modernising the learning process and engaging students more, it is also essential for preparing young people for tomorrow’s digital society.
PREPARING YOUNG PEOPLE FOR THE JOB MARKET
Recent reports by McKinsey and Roland Berger show how French organisations are lagging behind when it comes to the digital transformation. 38.9% of the company heads interviewed for a survey by L’Usine nouvelle and Sage said they didn’t have the requisite digital resources or skills, which led the French Department of Education to cite “digital literacy” as one of its major priorities. Accordingly, President François Hollande recently announced the introduction of coding into the curriculum of junior secondary school as of the 2016-2017 academic year.
Given that an estimated 110,000 jobs are to be created in the IT sector by 2022, according to the Nouvel Obs, this is a major step towards preparing young people for the future job market. But digital technology affects all areas now and as such should be incorporated into all the subjects taught, but this can only happen if schools have the right equipment – and in this respect, France is way behind its European neighbours. According to a recent report by the French Department of Education, almost 90% of teachers in Finland already use digital tools on a daily basis compared with just 5% in France!
LACK OF GOVERNMENT BACKING
According to Anne-Marie Patenotte, a French teacher at a junior secondary school on the outskirts of Paris and co-creator of the Edupad application, the major obstacle is equipment:
“Supplying interactive digital devices and computers, cabling and software to 55,000 schools, even with support from the local and regional education authorities, is impossible,” she says. “Consequently, the teachers have to manage with their own personal equipment and come up with their own solutions… It takes an exceptionally dedicated teacher who truly believes in the advantages of digital technology to persevere in such conditions.”
This statement – which contradicts the commonly-held belief that the biggest hindrance to the digitisation of schools is teachers’ reluctance to adopt the technology – is backed up by the Dept. of Education’s report: “99% of teachers believe that digital tools can improve the quality of lessons, motivate students and retain their attention (92%), and ensure easier tracking of students’ progress (89%)”.
So will “Digital for All, Now” benefit the country’s future leading lights?
Crédits photos : Student Ipad School, photo par Brad Flickinger, licence CC BY 2.0