ECONOMY

Investing in lifelong learning: A global certificate for e-enlightenment by ECDL

«Proper education needs certification,» says Anastassios Nikolaidis, chairman and managing director of ECDL Hellas, which grants in Greece the European Computer Driving License – an internationally recognized certificate of knowledge in information technology and computer skills at elementary, advanced and specialized levels. ECDL is developed and promoted by the ECDL Foundation (www.ecdl.com), an international non-profit organization founded by the Association of Information Technology Scientists and the Council of European Professional Informatics Societies (CEPIS). In Greece, CEPIS is represented by the Greek Society of Computer and IT Scientists (EPY). What do you consider to be the relation between certification, education and the labor market in the EU? The EU today has set a goal to promote what will be its comparative advantage, human trained capital, as laid out in the decisions reached at the summits of Lisbon, in March 2000, and Stockholm, in March 2001, to invest in e-enlightenment (www.ploteus.net – the portal for learning opportunities in the EU). Studying the structure of education systems, we see that up to 1990, it was based on the logic that of the bulk of knowledge we acquire, we end up using only about 30 percent at work («just in case»). After 1990, as direct access to information and globalization gathered pace, education turned to the direct acquisition of knowledge we need at a specific moment («just in time»). This is also the goal of continuing education – the updating of knowledge. We notice that tertiary educational institutions in most countries in Europe – despite reactions in some countries such as Germany, France and Greece – are oriented toward specialization of knowledge and three-year studies. At the same time, the European labor market seems skill-oriented: The use of English as a common medium of understanding and in commercial transactions, and the basic knowledge and skills in the use of computers. Securing the effectiveness of training in such skills requires certification, which works complementarily to college degrees. Who does ECDL address? It equips the future and active human resources with an internationally recognized certificate, and gives employers a reliable and objective measure for staff evaluation. Are there any other certification programs for computer knowledge and skills in Europe or elsewhere? There are many. As regards basic computer skills, apart from ECDL, the main ones are IC3, MOS and CIES. How does ECDL differ? ECDL is world leader in certification and this is attested by its comparative advantages. It is the most broadly spread program in the world; it is run in more than 90 countries, has more than 15,000 examination centers and about 12 million people have taken the tests. It is a software vendor that is independent – it does not support any software or computer manufacturer and can run the tests on any operating system. It follows the same specifications and the same methodology worldwide. The examination system is irreproachable and reliable; it is the only program that has a large number of certificates for all knowledge levels – ECDL Start, Core, Advanced, CAD – and new ones are being developed – ECDL Certified Training Professional, for the IT Administrator, IT Security, Web Publisher, for kids and teachers. Is the certificate linked to any EU directives? ECDL is fully harmonized with the goals of the Information Society in the EU. The high-level Employment and Social Dimension of the Information Society group has recommended that the EU officially recognize ECDL as a pan-European certificate for basic computer skills. ECDL enjoys wide recognition among ministries, educational and financial organizations worldwide, particularly in Europe. Banks that recognize ECDL, for instance, include Ireland’s TSB, the Bank of England, Norway’s SparBanken, Sweden’s Trygg Hansa and SEB, the Bank of Cyprus and Laiki Bank in Cyprus. How does the program work in Greece? EPY has the rights to the ECDL program in Greece, and it has assigned the management to ECDL Hellas (www.ecdl.gr). Since July of 2000, when the program was launched, a network of 534 examination centers has been developed throughout the country and 250,000 people have taken the tests. ECDL centers are universities, research foundations, public enterprises, vocational training establishments, private schools and liberal studies centers.