The vast majority of parents support more digital lessons

Children must be prepared for the digital age. A Vodafone Institute Survey realised by Allensbach revealed: A majority of parents demand that computers play an increasing role in classrooms.

Digital technologies are not only changing our communication habits and the patterns of our social interaction, they also create access to knowledge at any time and anywhere and speed up the time it takes to process that knowledge. They make production processes more efficient and are increasingly undermining existing power relationships. However, more than anything they are changing our world of work.

Therefore, digitalisation will play a significant role on today’s schoolchildren’s choice of career. A representative survey of parents on behalf of the Vodafone Institute for Society and Communication shows that parents are very aware of the challenges of digitalisation in terms of their children’s future, but eye the effects of the digital revolution with concern.

For example, some two thirds of parents are convinced that in future competent handling of computers and digital media will become even more important in the world of work and computers or machines will take over ever more tasks. However, they anticipate that the effects of increasing digitalisation on the job market will be more negative than positive: 40 percent of all parents are convinced that the growing importance of digital technologies will result in a loss of jobs. Only 13 percent are optimistic that it will create jobs.

Parents from more disadvantaged social strata are particularly pessimistic: 48 percent of these expect that jobs will be lost in the process of digitalisation. However, parents still do not subscribe to the idea of introducing programming as a “foreign language” at schools. Only 32 percent were of the opinion that programming skills should be part of the curriculum.

“Let’s think about tomorrow: study on the effects of digitalisation on education and career – a representative survey of parents in Germany” was performed by the Institut für Demoskopie Allensbach on behalf of the Vodafone Institute. A representative cross-section of 1,126 parents with school-aged children in general secondary education were interviewed.

The use of digital media at schools lags substantially behind parents’ expectations: 52 percent have the impression that digital media currently play a (very) large part in lessons. 72 percent want computers and the Internet to play a (very) large part. The fact that only 12 percent of parents are of the view that their children are “very well” prepared for the challenges of the digitalised world of work clearly shows that there is room to improve the use of digital technologies in schools and education.

Dr. David Deissner, Head of Strategy and Programmes at the Vodafone Institute, said: “The results of the study show that many parents are concerned about digitalisation. It is true that the digital transformation of job markets poses immense challenges to our education system in terms of equipping young people for tomorrow’s world. The decisive issue will be to support schools in not only providing digital technologies and learning formats, but integrating them into the daily life of schools as part of holistic pedagogical concepts. Here there is a lot of catching up to be done.”

The survey shows that parents now consider competent handling of computers and digital technologies (73 percent) to be just as important for their children’s career success as good report and exam grades (75 percent) and social skills (77 percent).

Parents are unanimous in holding that, in preparation for the world of work, schools should provide exposure to programmes used most commonly in working life – Microsoft Word or Excel – (89 percent) and should teach children how to do research on the Internet (71 percent). However, only 32 percent of respondents consider programming skills to be essential.

Even if many parents assume that requirements will increase and jobs will become ever more uncertain, the majority are optimistic both as regards further training and the career prospects of their children. Around three quarters assume that their child has good or very good chances of securing a place on their intended vocational training or degree course.

“The effects on the world of work and the job market play a central role in the discussion of the consequences of the digitalisation of all areas of life. The results of the survey show that parents are highly aware of the challenges and impacts of the increasing digitalisation of the world of work on their children’s professional opportunities,” said Werner Süßlin, project manager for the survey at the Institut für Demoskopie Allensbach.

This study has been published in advance of the conference “digitising europe – oppor-tunities for the next generation” to be held by the Vodafone Institute. Multipliers from politics, business, academia and the European start-up scene will discuss how educa-tion, work and academia are changing in the wake of increasing digitalisation. “digitising europe” will take place on 4 December 2014 in Berlin. Information on the programme and speakers can be found at www.digitising-europe.eu