A TRANSFORMATION on the same scale as the “invention of printing in the 15th century” is the aim of a new “overall digital strategy” for schools.
Undaunted by the fact that 15 previous “digital plans” have left France 24th out of 27 OECD countries in terms of IT use in school, Education Minister Vincent Peillon has drawn up a scheme he says will “tackle digital technology in all its dimensions”.
This will range from “equipment, to connecting, to content and to training of staff”, giving benefits including “a reduction in geographical and social divides”.
The minister said one problem in the past was that good IT training for teachers, so they were comfortable with making use of digital technology in the classroom, had never been well addressed. Nor has the creation of good quality digital classroom content. This was the reason France was lagging behind.
His strategy therefore includes new IT training modules in the revamped teacher training departments that are being launched next year. A new public service for digital education will be set up to oversee the creation of new classroom resources, the setting up of new ways of supporting the pupils and communicating with families etc.
Among the aims will be creating new online services for pupils, parents and teachers from 2013-17, including social networks for teachers to share ideas.
There will be new digital content for learning English, called “English for pupils” and “English for teachers”, a new online tool for learning reading in primary school and animated films highlighting key points from the primary curriculum. There will also be online help for preparing exams and new options for carrying out administrative tasks over the internet.
As a priority, all primary schools should be equipped with espaces numériques de travail - interactive websites for sharing information between home and school. Only a quarter have them so far.
According to the government the measures being organised will help “give everyone a taste for learning”.
The vice-president of the Association des Régions de France, François Bonneau, warned that there is a “growing gap between the place that digital technology has in young people’s lives and in education”.
A recent study on IT in French schools by Rémi Thibert of the Institut Français de l’Education notes that despite 25 years of efforts, IT has yet to have a real impact on teaching practices or on pupils’ success.
Teachers needed to “shake up their approach to teaching a class,” he wrote. “It’s not really something you can do by decree. It’s our whole system, still very disciplinarian, very compartmentalised, that needs to be questioned.”