According to the European Commission, there is a need to create a cybersecurity education programme for primary and secondary schoolchildren.
A pilot held in Germany last year is now being developed into a blended learning programme to be offered to other European countries from December 2020 onwards.
Children start using digital media at an early age. Over 50 per cent of eight-year-olds are active online, rising to 100 per cent among adolescents, according to the intro video on this project. “Young people often do not recognise risks and do not take appropriate security measures. Sometimes they do not even care.” This behaviour and attitude illustrates the need to combine media education with cybersecurity training, and to integrate both in the classroom early on.
During the German pilot in 2019, concepts for classroom training and a Massive Open Online Class (MOOC) were developed and successfully implemented. Numerous teachers participated in both the online and on-site training. They received profound know-how including a wide range of materials to anchor the topic of cybersecurity to the classroom, and to provide young people with skills and knowledge for the safe use of digital media. Due to this success, the initiative will be rolled out in other European countries.
Need to teach
The initiative originally derives from both the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) and the Commission's Directorate General for Education and Culture (DG EAC) as part of the Digital Europe Programme (DEP). Both bodies felt that there was a need to create cybersecurity education programmes for primary and secondary school children.
EIT Digital is a logical partner to conduct this project, says Roberto Prieto, Chief Education Officer of EIT Digital. “EIT Digital already has a lot of knowledge about cybersecurity education. We have a master school programme Cyber Security, we run professional school courses and address cybersecurity in our summer schools. We are very engaged with educating people in cybersecurity and are proud to lead an initiative such as this.”
Also relevant is that EIT Digital has the infrastructure already in place to conduct a project like this. The organisation can implement the classes in the European countries where it hosts an office.
One of EIT Digital’s education partners, the Fraunhofer Institute for Intelligent Analysis and Information Systems IAIS has, in commission of the EIT Digital Academy, developed the training package Cybersecurity in Education. This contains four online classes about different aspects of cybersecurity, like data protection and privacy. Positive effects of the internet are also discussed, and valuable digital skills are taught.
In 2020, the materials have been updated based on the learnings from the pilot. One of the learnings is that teachers prefer the material to be in their own language. After all, teachers need to explain the slang to children, and that works best if they get acquainted with it in their own language. The project will be in English with local subtitles. Another learning is that teachers prefer a blended learning approach instead of pure online or on-site training.
The project will be launched in Germany first before it is rolled out to other European countries. On the list are the countries where EIT Digital holds an office, because the physical classes will be held at the premises of EIT Digital. Alongside Germany, these countries are: Finland, France, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK. The final goal is to have educated 3,000 European teachers in cybersecurity.