Digital Divide Persists Across Europe As Unequal Access To AI Tools In Schools Risks Leaving Students Behind

Classroom AI

GoStudent, one of the world’s leading tutoring providers and education platforms, has today released The GoStudent Future of Education Report 2024. The annual report offers a unique and comprehensive view of emerging educational trends, the priorities of Gen Z and Alpha students, and sheds light on current challenges across Europe’s education systems. Created in collaboration with Edelman Data & Intelligence, the study includes insights from 5,581 parents and their children and 60 teachers across six European countries: Austria, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, and the United Kingdom.

One of the strongest findings is the extent of the demand for AI in the classroom. GoStudent CEO and Co-Founder Felix Ohswald says: “We’ve listened to the opinion of thousands of children, parents and teachers across Europe, and they are equally eager to see the education system innovate and evolve to suit the world of today and tomorrow.  Children want to learn about topics that prepare them for the future, including AI and VR, and express frustration that this is not immediately available to them. Teachers and parents are also eager to empower each individual, seeing future technologies as key here, but are held back by the limitations of the current system. Yet all see technology as the solution: we need to increase access to these tools to ensure students and educators are set up for success.”

More than 50% of students in Europe demand AI integration in education, fuelled by the explosive growth of tools like ChatGPT

Last year, GoStudent found that 44% of children believed AI would enhance education by 2050. Just one year later, The GoStudent Future of Education Report 2024 reveals that over half of students (54%) firmly express a desire to start learning with AI now. And it’s no wonder that perceptions have shifted in such a short time, with the explosion of tools such as ChatGPT transforming education – and the future world – forever.

Supporting the call for AI, the report also shows that children in Europe are increasingly embracing a tech-centric lifestyle, with their confidence in living in a world surrounded by new technologies growing by 20% from last year ( 77% in 2024, up from 64% in 2023).

And they clearly see the benefits of using emerging technologies in education: 75% of children believe that technology allows them to learn what they want, which underlines the power of digital in creating new learning opportunities.

Interestingly, while the Metaverse generated significant interest among children in Europe in 2023 with 80% of students interested in learning through this platform, this waned to 49% this year behind the rising enthusiasm to learn with AI (54%) and VR (55%).

“The decline in Metaverse interest may be due to its abstract nature and the slower development of Metaverse-related educational content compared to other technologies like AI and VR. Students are gravitating toward technologies that offer tangible and immediate educational benefits”, says Gregor Müller, COO and Co-Founder of GoStudent.

And supporting children’s appetite for AI, 8 in 10 parents and 9 in 10 teachers across Europe support the use of education apps and online learning tools, and 6 in 10 parents see AI as a highly effective educational tool.

Unequal access to technological tools in European schools could leave children behind in a future job market dominated by technology

Despite the overall increase in interest towards AI, a digital gap persists across Europe and this is clear in the fact that 35% of children do not believe school is teaching them the skills they need to do their dream job, with 50% wanting technology development added to the curriculum.

In schools, this gap is already apparent. In the DACH region, 4 in 10 children claim to already have access to AI at school whereas in the UK and Spain, this drops to 2 in 10, and only 1 in 10 in Italy and France.

This lack of training in AI tools risks leaving children unequally equipped in building the future workforce. According to theWorld Economic Forum’s 2023 study about the Future of Jobs, AI and big data is the number one skills priority for large companies, ahead of 25 other skills needed in the workplace.

With the explosion of fast-changing technologies, schools struggle to keep up. The AI gap could also be linked to a limited access to IT resources at school: 52% of children have access to a tablet at school in Austria (and 44% in Germany), compared to 38% in the UK and 35% in Spain, and only 25% in Italy and 20% in France.

This digital gap highlights the need for more consistent and equitable access to technology in schools across Europe. It underscores the importance of addressing infrastructure disparities and ensuring that all students have equal opportunities to benefit from digital learning tools.

Currently just half of the teachers interviewed across Europe use digital apps regularly, despite over 9 in 10 praising their effectiveness – indicating that a lack of access to technology is thwarting many teachers’ ability to improve their methods.

 43% of students in Europe prioritise AI, equally ranked with sustainability, as key subjects to study to be future-ready

While in 2023, students ranked understanding environmental issues as their top priority, the 2024 Education Report shows that AI has entered their concerns, with AI equally ranked alongside sustainability as the third most important topic to learn to be ready for the future.

The emergence and rapid adoption of AI in our society has triggered a shift among young people’s priorities, who believe future changes powered by AI will be just as important to consider as those caused by global warming, and they need to be just as prepared.

Additionally, it is no coincidence that technology development ranks as the number one topic to learn among the majority of children, far ahead of Current Affairs or Cryptocurrencies. This generation knows that understanding and experimenting with emerging tech such as AI will play a huge role in building the future, and they place it as an essential pillar of their education.

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