Recently I was able to reflect on our regular activities at ICDL Canada by visiting London, UK for the annual forum of what we call National Operators. Many of the leaders of 140+ countries (collectively with 13 million ECDL/ICDL registrants) were present. It was valuable to gain the perspectives on certification from so many countries, but I think, in Canada at least, it’s a pursuit that needs more advocacy, arguments that address all levels of application from individuals to educational institutions and from employers to governments. We collectively benefit when our society fosters a stronger desire for such self-improvement related to what we do, pursue and get paid for.
Essential skills* are the skills everyone needs but skills which vast numbers in many have countries don’t have, including Canada. Conceivably, those whose skills are strong will increasingly differentiate themselves through certification from those whose are not. The rest may thereby become motivated to seek stronger personal skills, and in turn get themselves skill certified.
The OECD framework for literacy measurement, now well established, is the kind of tool we need more of within the essential skills area. (See our earlier post on OECD literacy measurement and computer user skills certification.) The results of those national literacy surveys have had major impact in each member country. Possibly we in ECDL/ICDL will have opportunities to work with OECD and others to provide meaningful measures of ICT user skills within the population of our nations, measures based on derivatives of the ICDL generic computer use skills standards which are now so widespread in the world.
ICDL Canada weaves its thread of arguments for improved digital competence on the basis of improved productivity, e-security, acceptance of innovation and change, adoption of new technology, information society inclusion, and more efficient preparation of students for higher education… But will such words really work to change people’s commitment to self-improvement in essential skills? We also talk of national competitiveness, efficiency of government. Politically there’s always the challenge of temporal mandates and lapsing funding schemes. (Why not let us know what you think using the comments section below? What other words and arguments do you think people and their leaders might respond to?)
Discussions with so many colleagues from so many ECDL/ICDL countries caused me to speculate further…
In Canada we have at times wondered if there was too strong an under current of protection by public education (our collection of many provincial/local jurisdictions) that may not whole heartedly embrace third party assessments and certification even when they come with world scale objectivity and equidistance from traditional players. Certification-based programs encourage the focus on outcomes rather than inputs. Many countries now develop reference frameworks for ICT user competences which encourage outcomes and increasingly guide the flow of funding in their countries’ ICT skills development.
At ICDL Canada we do believe in the delivery mechanism of proctored testing for meaningful certification. But in the high stakes/low stakes certification continuum, self-assessment sounds like it has a part to play in the spectrum on offer. We encourage registered ICDL candidates’ use of self-assessment tests for diagnostics ahead of their higher stakes ICDL Certification Tests. Diagnostic Tests are now used widely by ICDL Canada candidates and can be very helpful preparation for achievement of success in the proctored certification standard. They identify areas needing further preparation, then boost confidence with a sense of readiness for certification testing.
We see that most higher education institutions now have their assessment centre. Each may have had their start tied to college entrance testing and prior learning assessment. Now it’s like looking into alphabet soup to see the list of what they assess. One factor accelerating their growth is ‘distance learning reciprocity’ which has these centres mutually examining students connected to one another’s distance learning programs. Interestingly, several institutions have made their assessment centres at least in part into more independent business units responsive to the overall flow of fee-based assessment work. There appears to be a growing mass of certifications delivered in a multitude of settings. Building single purpose, certification-specific delivery vehicles may not be the only answer. Undoubtedly many that now exist will survive but more will include participation in multi- faceted assessment and certification processes. High quality internationally recognized standards will increasingly become an indispensable element for such assessment centres. In this maturing certification arena, the systems from standards bodies will need to be convenient and efficient for both the assessment centres and the candidates to use. It will be increasingly inappropriate to impose a one best and detailed way on a multi-faceted assessment facility. The candidate identification process will need to be smart and reliable, the tests automated and trouble free, all in a system that has the standard setter directly but independently connected to both the proctoring assessment centre and the candidate wanting a particular certification. The high quality standard will be the fundamental constituent…
*HRSDC’s list of essential skills includes: reading, writing, document use, numeracy, computer use, thinking, oral communication, working with others, continuous learning.