Primary schools believe pupils' digital literacy needs to improve

First Digital Literacy Survey ahead of new curriculum on #DigiTuesday

Digital literacy is increasingly important: the associated knowledge and skills are vital for learning, living and working in today's digitising society. Action is therefore urgently required, according to the findings of the Primary Education Digital Literacy Survey. Asked to rate their pupils' digital literacy skills on a scale of 1 to 10, teachers gave an average mark of just 4.9. Nearly two thirds (63 per cent) of the 5,296 educators, ICT coordinators, principals and administrators said that boosting pupils' digital literacy was important or very important. Undertaken for ECP | Platform for the Information Society and enabled by the ING Nederland Foundation, the survey is part of a series of annual 'DigiTuesday' studies intended to gauge the progress that schools are making on digital literacy in the run-up to the new curriculum planned for 2022.

Digital literacy is one of the nine learning fields in the new curriculum for primary, secondary and special education. The Survey found that nearly three quarters (72 per cent) of teachers are anticipating the field's inclusion by addressing digital literacy in one or more subjects. However, only one teacher in ten makes use of a learning pathway. As the new curriculum's introduction approaches, a more structural approach is required. In that context, support and ICT facilities are desirable. At present, school ICT facilities are regarded by roughly half (51 per cent) of teachers as unsatisfactory for the coming five-year period. The main shortcoming highlighted by the teachers was that they didn't have enough devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops and computers, or that the ones they had were too old.

Extra support needed

"The Survey helps to clarify what is needed to further embed digital literacy in primary education. Its findings enable primary schools to focus their efforts," says ECP's Marjolijn Bonthuis. Teachers reported needing support, particularly from educational publishers (33 per cent), other education organisations (23 per cent) and libraries (16 per cent). "We hope that they're willing to work with the people who have developed a lot of material in recent years. If everyone works together, we can ensure that when the new curriculum comes in, if not before, all children in the Netherlands get the chance to learn digital skills."

Schools need to take a systematic approach to digital literacy

Digital literacy is a combination of four skills. The Survey results show that teaching tends to focus mainly on basic ICT Skills, followed by Information Skills, Media Awareness and Computational Thinking, in that order. From year 3, teachers say that they pay more attention to those forms of digital literacy with each successive year group. However, more than half (56 per cent) of teachers report that there is no systematic approach to boosting digital literacy. That is despite the fact that nearly two thirds (64 per cent) confirm that their school does have a staff member with special responsibility for innovation in this field.

The top four digital literacy themes covered in class are:

  1. Searching and finding on the internet (61 per cent)

  2. Word-processors and presentation programs (44 per cent)

  3. Online bullying (39 per cent)

  4. Social media (38 per cent)

New curriculum for primary, secondary and special education

One of the education sector's main tasks is to provide pupils with the basic skill set needed to become adults capable of contributing to society, providing for themselves and tackling life with self-confidence. However, the national core targets are outdated. A hundred and fifty teachers and school leaders have therefore been working under the Curriculum.nu umbrella to define nine new or revised learning fields. Digital literacy -- with the ability to function independently in the digitising society at its heart -- is one of the new learning fields. On 10 October, the nine teams will present their proposals to Minister Arie Slob. The proposals will form the basis for redefinition of the core aims for primary, secondary and special education.

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