For Switzerland to remain one of the leading countries in the development and application of digital technologies, it needs to boost skills in education and research. The Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER) has conducted a study into the challenges of digitalisation for education and research in Switzerland and drawn up an action plan for digitalisation in the ERI sector in 2019 and 2020. Concrete measures are planned in eight action areas.
Action Plan for Education, Research and Innovation (ERI) 2019–2020
Action plan for digitalisation in the ERI sector: basic principles
In April 2016, the Federal Council adopted its Digital Switzerland strategy, upon which it based a report on framework conditions for the digital economy, published in January 2017. This gave rise to an in-depth study by the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER) into the challenges of digitalisation for education and research in Switzerland. The subsequent report, drawn up by the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI), forms the basis of the Action Plan for Digitalisation in ERI 2019–2020.
Digitalisation: Challenges for education, research and innovation
The report on Challenges of Digitalisation for Education and Research in Switzerland published by SERI in July 2017 shows that Switzerland is in a generally healthy position:
- In being differentiated, complementary and permeable, the Swiss education system provides an important basis for coping with the demands of digitalisation and for meeting the changing demands of the labour market.
- There has already been a response to the increased importance of digitalisation in the education and research sectors.
- Digitalisation continues to present the education and research sectors with major new challenges.
Eight action areas
Based on the SERI report on Challenges of Digitalisation for Education and Research in Switzerland, the Confederation and associated players have drawn up the Action Plan for Digitalisation in ERI 2019–2020, which defines measures in eight action areas.
Action areas in education
In order to ensure that Switzerland's education system adapts appropriately to the digital developments taking place, action must be taken by individuals, educational institutions and the education system as a whole.
Action area 1: Improving digital literacy
The education system should enable children and young people from compulsory school to upper secondary level to acquire the digital skills necessary to thrive in an increasingly digital society and working world. One of the Confederation’s measures in this area is to promote the teaching of IT at baccalaureate schools.
Action area 2: Using ICT in teaching and learning
Digitalisation is fundamentally changing the context in which we teach and learn. Students require good infrastructure and conditions in all places of learning if they are to benefit fully from the advantages of information and communication technologies (ICT). For example, a range of measures are planned to improve the digital skills of teachers and school administrators at upper secondary level and to show them how to transfer their knowledge.
Action area 3: Rapidly adapting the education system to market requirements
In order to ensure the Switzerlnd’s competitiveness as a business location, the education system must respond quickly to the new skills required by the market. One measure in the Action Plan to address this challenge is a greater focus on the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and on continuing education. Furthermore, vocational training courses and content will be adapted more quickly to market needs, and a contingent of specialists in cyber-defence created to support the armed forces and operators of critical infrastructures.
Action area 4: Improving coordination and communication in education cooperation
Digitalisation is leading to changes at all levels of education and in all educational programmes, albeit in different ways and in many different forms. The strategies and measures taken at one level have an impact at other levels, and in turn on the education system as a whole. This makes it all the more important to coordinate strategies and measures across all levels of the education system. There is therefore a focus on improving systemic coordination and communication in education cooperation.
Action areas in higher education, research and innovation
The changes associated with digitalisation also present challenges for universities, research and the innovation system.
Action area 5: Strengthening young academic's qualifications (digital skills)
As digitalisation spreads, universities are faced with major challenges with regard to scientific information infrastructures, the need to continuously develop teaching and learning forms and content, and the need to teach the skills required to use new digital technologies (‘digital skills’) in all subject areas.
Action area 6: Ensuring interdisciplinary research on the consequences of digital change for the Swiss economy and society
Digitalisation not only involves new technologies and new applications, it also affects and changes many other aspects of our society and economy. These connections are highly complex and not fully understood. Research into the social, legal and political aspects of digitalisation is therefore of central importance. The launch of an interdisciplinary series of National Research Programmes (NRPs) on ‘Digital Transformation of the Economy and Society’ is currently in preparation.
Action area 7: Building competencies in basic research
Knowledge generation – in the form of basic research – in computer science is critical. Digitalisation affects all areas, and so basic research to the benefit of all disciplines is required to generate knowledge for new applications. For example, the ETH Domain is setting up new professorships in IT/Computer Science over the coming years to meet this need.
Action area 8: Promoting innovation: Speeding up knowledge transfer
The ongoing digitalisation of industry (Industry 4.0) and its impact on manufacturing technologies creates particular challenges for many businesses, in particular SMEs. Developing such manufacturing technologies (‘advanced manufacturing’) requires both intensive trans- and interdisciplinary cooperation between specialists in many fields and direct cooperation between researchers and industry. In order to support businesses along the path towards Industry 4.0, Innosuisse will launch a Manufacturing Technologies impulse programme and a national network of technology transfer centres for manufacturing technologies is planned.