According to the European Commission, spending on education across Europe is decreasing and stagnating, posing a real threat to Europe’s potential for growth. This impacts us all, and therefore we believe that bold and innovative approaches based on strong multi-stakeholder partnerships are crucial. We also believe that the benefits that technology can bring, both in and for the classroom, have never been more important to realize.
At Microsoft, we work closely with local, regional and national governments, and focus our efforts on support for three main areas: modernizing education, ICT skills training, and providing low or no cost technology that helps students learn, educators teach and administrators manage the business of education.
When we say “modernize education,” we’re talking about delivering services and experiences that bring learning to life in and out of the classroom, and allowing education leaders to reimagine how technology can modernize learning and improve learning outcomes.
Although we have some of the most pioneering schools in the world in Europe, they remain islands of innovation. Students in most schools in Europe are using technology in class at most a few times per month, and school principals point to a lack of IT infrastructure as a major obstacle. We see a real opportunity for education systems to bring technology to bear to make education more inspiring and motivating for young people, and to help improve learning outcomes.
When it comes to ICT skills, according to European Schoolnet research, less than 15% of European students have the opportunity to regularly use ICT in schools. One way we’re directly addressing this skills shortage is through the Microsoft IT Academy (ITA), through which students (and educators) can access digital curriculum and earn certifications for fundamental technology skills on topics ranging from productivity to computer science. To date, more than 4000 educational institutions in Europe have benefitted from the program. Students who have graduated from ITA are better equipped with the IT skills and softer skills such as collaboration, self-regulation and problem solving that the job market requires. In the Netherlands, every secondary school, college and university is part of the IT Academy program. Many participating students graduate with a dual qualification that gives them both formal academic skills along with a valuable industry certification which can help them get a job.
We also have exemplary programs for teachers. The Microsoft Educator Network, with more than 1 million members worldwide, offers digital teaching resources, professional development and a vibrant community enabling innovative educators to share best practices and learn from our Showcase Schools and Expert Educator mentors. Members have shared more than 12,000 learning resources such as lesson plans, simulations and much more, and can access 700 tutorials on getting the best learning outcomes using technology.
More than 15,000 teachers around Europe have taken our online professional development courses so far in the 2014-15 academic year. And through a series of capacity development workshops, we are supporting European countries such as Finland and Croatia as they revise regional and national strategies to integrate devices and technology across the curriculum and school system.
For education institutions themselves, Microsoft works to help them manage their resources more effectively through the cloud. As an example, Azure Machine Learning combined with Power BI can enable education leaders to analyse student performance data to understand what factors lead to student success in exams or to analyse which actions teachers are taking that are leading to fewer student drop outs. Services such as Microsoft Azure and Office 365 put schools’ ICT into the cloud, taking the pain out of on-site infrastructure management, and cutting costs, freeing up scarce human and fiscal resources to focus more on the business of educating. Cloud solutions can also help monitor and manage the full range of education services more efficiently, from school buses through to heating and lighting systems.
Our third focus is on providing low or no cost technology that helps students learn, educators teach and administrators manage the business of education. On that front, we’re proud to say that Office 365 Pro Plus has been downloaded by more than 1 million students and educators at schools and education institutions in Europe in the 2014-15 academic year alone to help them collaborate and communicate in a secure and efficient manner through the cloud.
We believe that Europe can build on its world-class education system to re-start growth through leveraging the cloud to enable institutions to do more with less. Investing time and effort in educational transformation through technology, to focus clearly on student needs and outcomes, will bring tremendous benefits for our future generations. Microsoft is honoured to be a trusted partner of governments across Europe to make that happen.
To learn more about Microsoft’s manifesto for empowered education in Europe, click here.