In January 2016, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by world leaders in 2015, officially came into force. The SDGs represent the global community’s aspirations for a better future for humanity and the Federal Council has declared its commitment to working towards them in Switzerland and globally.

Education is slow to change

SDG 4 is focused on education: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Like the other SDGs, SDG 4 is subdivided into targets (the “how”) and indicators (the measures of success). This helps make the goals tangible and achievable for countries. Target 4.4 aims to: By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship. Indicator 4.4.1 measures how many youth and adults have the right information technology skills, giving them a path better jobs.

In 2019, António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), noted: “Rapid technological changes present opportunities and challenges, but the learning environment, the capacities of teachers and the quality of education have not kept pace.” Even though his statement applies to the global setting, it is just as valid for Switzerland. While the Swiss private sector, NGOs and scientific community have been committed to sustainable development for a long time, the country was slow to adopt digital learning in schools. The Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK/CIDP) only published its digital strategy in 2018; Lehrplan 21 and PER may be outdated by the time they are fully rolled out in all schools.

Digital integration: three push factors towards SDG 4

Digital integration comprises three dimensions according to sociologist Luc Vodoz:

  • Access to ICT (access to a suitable PC, connection to the network, affordability, etc.)
  • Knowhow (especially technical, but also social to the extent that these skills influence the ability to use ICT)
  • Access to content (ability to make effective use of the technical, informational and communication resources contained in ICT)

Most of the Swiss population has access in some form or another to ICT. In 2016, 78% of 15 to 74-year-olds in Switzerland owned a smartphone – that is some 4.9 million people. Among students, 98% use a computer at home and 78% at school. Ninety percent of the Swiss population uses the internet at least once a week. In terms of the access aspects, Switzerland fares well.

However, there is variation when it comes to knowhow and content. Lots of schools are teaching about fake news and fact finding, others focus on simple Office suite knowledge, and some are tackling computational thinking and coding. At this rate, Switzerland will take a long time to reach the target.

Best practice for all

digitalswitzerland has supported the Campus/Spotlight events for two years to encourage teachers to innovate with digital teaching and bring best practice through peer sharing. There are some fabulous projects out there; Switzerland needs to multiply them exponentially! Initiatives like this are an exciting opportunity for the next generation. They also play an important role in our country’s efforts to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.