For those who travel in Europe on a weekly basis, the publication of the OECD PISA results just confirmed the heterogeneity of European education systems. This is what you could have read in the press while crossing Member States borders: that Swiss students are the best in Europe at maths; German students have improved their maths scores once again; Italian students have improved in maths; and that Spanish students keep falling short in maths. A more in-depth reading would also have told us that Finland has fallen from the podium, Sweden had entered a period of turmoil… The only certainty we can take from last week is that Singaporean students again emerge world beaters in international assessment.
Behind the glory or misery of the data, what emerged is the growing gap in attainment between the best and worst-performing students throughout Europe. For those unconvinced, I highly recommend reading the Mind the Gap study. Inequalities at school have increased and we are all looking for a way out.
Would technology in the classroom shrink the gap between the centre and the periphery?
A recent study revealed that 63% of nine-year-olds in the European Union do not study at a ‘highly digitally-equipped school’ (with appropriate equipment, fast broadband and high connectivity). Opening up education to technology could, in this context, bring significant results. But would it solve the inequality problem?
This question reminds me of an article published a year ago in Israel: “Any discussion about education or pedagogy which ignores the social context in which it takes place is deliberately ignoring reality.” The growing number of children failing to pass PISA tests in Europe must be compared with the number of school dropouts and unemployed youth. In this social context, technology could very well end up increasing the gap between the centre and the periphery.
The above-mentioned article raised three key questions that we need to address to guide all of these children back on track with the support of technology in the classroom:
- Are the children able to choose autonomously?
- Do they believe in themselves?
- Do they have a knowledge base that would allow them to understand what they would be learning online?
Children from our peripheries deserve more attention, personalised learning schemes, and new opportunities to apply their learning in different social contexts.
Technology is a fantastic opportunity to transform their learning experiences. But beyond technology, it is the responsibility of all social actors: teachers, parents, companies, innovators and entrepreneurs to open up education… to the children themselves.
Nothing will be achieved in education without the participation of the children themselves in the learning process. This is the main challenge of our education systems and one of the main lessons we can take from the PISA survey.
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