THE e-LEARNING ACTION PLAN
SEC (01) 526
Commission Communication :The e-Learning Action Plan
Designing tomorrow's education.
Commission Staff Working Paper: Annex: guide to related
programmes and instruments.
||28 March 2001|
|Forwarded to the Council:
||2 April 2001|
|Deposited in Parliament:
||25 April 2001|
||Education and Skills|
|Basis of consideration:
||EM of 4 May 2001|
|Previous Committee Report:
||None; but see (21324) 9022/00: HC 23-xxv (1999-2000), paragraph 9 (19 July 2000)
|To be discussed in Council:
28.1 The e-Learning initiative is part of the
comprehensive e-Europe Action Plan. Last summer, we considered
a Commission Communication about it, entitled E-learning
designing tomorrow's education. We cleared the document, noting
that the Commission intended to prepare a framework for attaining
its goals and to provide progress reports to the Education Council.
28.2 The framework has now itself become an Action
Plan (document (a)). It has been deposited together with an Annex
(document (b)) summarising existing programmes and pointing out
their relevance to e-learning. Our report concentrates on document
28.3 The Action Plan covers the period 2001-2004
and is intended to support implementation of the e-Learning initiative
by providing "a tool to help practical players and decision-makers
by presenting options and explaining possible approaches".
After listing the aims of the initiative, and charting its progress
over the last year, the Communication identifies four key areas:
infrastructure; training; high-quality multimedia services and
content; co-operation across Europe. For each of these, a set
of "measures" is listed, together with an indication
of the bodies responsible for their achievement. While some of
the measures are specific ("organisation of an 'e-Learning
Summit' ", for example), many are general in nature ("support
for multi-lingual portals on the Internet"), and few, if
any, are quantifiable.
28.4 The Plan makes it clear that it is concerned
with the co-ordinated and coherent use of existing resources:
no new money is on offer.
The Government's view
28.5 The then Minister for Education and Employment
(Baroness Blackstone) told us in May 2001 that the proposals in
the Action Plan are consistent with UK policy as set out in the
National Grid for Learning, announced in 1997, and, to a great
extent, mirror what the UK has done already or is in the process
of doing. She identified a number of minor differences between
the aims listed in the document and the published UK targets (one
example is the target for all schools in the EU to have an Internet
connection by the end of 2001; the UK's target is for all schools
to be connected by 2002). In addition, there are some parts of
the text which are open to interpretation, and a few detailed
points on which the UK would take issue (such as the recommendation
that all schools be linked up to research-level broadband networks).
She concluded however that: "as these proposals are for open
negotiation, are listed for Member State action, and are not binding
on UK policy, it is not anticipated that they will cause difficulties".
28.6 We find this a disappointing Action Plan.
The lack of challenging targets results in it adding little of
substance to the Communication which preceded it. It is significant
that the Minister's reservations largely relate to the objectives
of the e-Learning initiative itself rather than to the bland "measures"
listed in the Plan.
28.7 Nevertheless, since, as the Minister
says, the proposals are not likely to cause difficulties, we clear