Written answers

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Department of Education and Skills

School Curriculum

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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119. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills her Department’s strategy to support digital skills in schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23663/22]

Photo of Norma FoleyNorma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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The new Digital Strategy for Schools to 2027 was published on the 17thApril and has at its core the aim of empowering schools to further embed digital technologies across their teaching, learning and assessment. It sets out how the development of digital skills are supported in schools and builds on the key achievements under the previous strategy. It aligns closely with the EU Digital Education Action Plan 2021-2027 and also takes into consideration the National Digital Strategy ‘Harnessing Digital: The Digital Ireland Framework as well as other relevant policies and strategies. It is available here www.gov.ie/en/publication/69fb88-digital-strategy-for-schools/

The stated vision of the Digital Strategy is to empower schools to harness the opportunities of digital transformation to build digital competence and an effective digital education ecosystem so as to develop competent, critically engaged, active learners while supporting them to reach their potential and participate fully as global citizens in a digital world.

It is underpinned by an investment of €200million, €50million of which has already issued directly to schools. A further €13m is invested on an annual basis in the Schools Broadband Programme and a further €50m was issued in grant funding in November 2021 as part of Ireland’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan to address the digital divide. Through continued investment we will also ensure that all schools, regardless of location are provided with appropriate broadband connectivity.

The importance of the effective use of digital technologies in our school system is key to delivering the skills need for our current and future learners. What is required, and what is incorporated in the stated vision of this strategy, is an education system that supports the development of competent, critically engaged and active learners. This also requires the Department and its support services to continue to ensure that teachers and school leaders have access to the necessary supports and resources to facilitate this.

The strategy itself is set out under three pillars, which recognise how the various elements of our school system are involved and interlinked in supporting and progressing the use of digital technologies in our school system and how the Department can support this. These are

- Pillar 1:Supporting the embedding of digital technologies in teaching, learning and assessment

- Pillar 2:Digital Technology Infrastructure

- Pillar 3: Looking to the future: policy, research and digital leadership

Each Pillar contains overarching objectives, which will be supported by a more detailed Implementation Plan. The first Implementation Plan will run from 2022-2024. Towards the end of this phase a midterm review will be carried out to inform the next Implementation Plan from 2025-2027.

It is intended to put in place appropriate oversight and measurement processes to ensure effective implementation of the strategy. This will include establishing relevant groups to provide oversight and inform ongoing implementation over the lifetime of the strategy including developments to avail of emerging technologies. Delivering on the objectives of this strategy will involve ongoing collaboration across Government and with key stakeholders. Therefore it is planned to establish relevant consultative groups to facilitate engagement with education stakeholders and relevant industry representatives.

By combining the continued commitment shown by teachers and schools leaders with the effective use of digital technologies in their teaching practice, we can equip young people with the key digital skills they need for life.

The inclusion of digital learning skills as part of curriculum development will also support all learners to gain these skills as part of their education journey.

Substantial progress has been made across the curriculum with some examples including:

- All new and revised curricular specifications now include clear statements that focus on the development of digital learning skills.

- Introduction of the Primary Language Curriculum embeds digital literacy across its learning outcomes.

- Draft Primary Curriculum Framework (2020) outlines being a digital learner as one of seven key competencies intended to be embedded across all curriculum areas and subjects. It also proposes that digital technology would become part of the curriculum area of Mathematics, Science and Technology.

The Framework for Junior Cycle provides multiple opportunities for the development of digital skills. A set of twenty-four Statements of Learning are central to the student experience in junior cycle and schools must ensure that all statements of learning are offered to their junior cycle students. Statement 24 focuses explicitly on the development of digital skills setting out the expectation that the student uses technology and digital media tools to learn, communicate, work and think collaboratively and creatively in a responsible and ethical manner. The development of digital skills is further supported through the eight key skills of junior cycle. These key skills are embedded in the learning outcomes within each junior cycle subject and short course. Each key skill includes a number of elements with a digital element in each key skill.

Junior cycle students undertake a 400-hour programme of well-being as part of their junior cycle programme and this provides additional opportunity for the development of digital media literacy skills and digital citizenship skills through the short courses in CSPE and SPHE.

In addition to this cross-curricular focus on digital skills, schools may choose to offer short courses which explicitly focus on the development of digital skills. NCCA have developed two such short courses in Coding and Digital Media Literacy and schools may also opt to develop their own short course.

At senior cycle the use of digital technology is an important aspect of many subjects. The Leaving Certificate subject Computer Science is available nationally since September 2020.

Following my announcement on 29 March regarding a reimagined Senior Cycle where the student is at the centre of their Senior Cycle experience, I note the NCCA’s intention to research the potential of technology to support greater diversity in approaches to assessment across Senior Cycle. This will allow for technology-enabled modes of assessment to be considered as part of the movement towards additional assessment components in each subject and the exploration of a school-based, externally moderated form of assessment of such components. Indeed, recent second assessment components developed by the SEC have been ‘Designed for Digital’. This exploration should of course have regard to the requirement for integration with the Digital Strategy for Schools.

Furthermore, work on the opportunities technology offers to support the availability of subject choice to students will be undertaken.


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