Learning about one’s IT skills

The test showing the real level of people’s digital skills.

IT skills are necessary for most jobs.IT skills are necessary for most jobs. (Source: Sme )

“I must admit that we cannot move off without information technologies these days,” says Lenka Grulová from Senec who is currently on maternity leave.

Before she left for the maternity leave, Grulová worked in health care and used IT for her personal use. Now she leads the maternity centre in Senec and since she needs to promote its activities, she had to learn how to work with the internet more and accomplish several tasks in order to make it work.

Grulová was one of nearly 20,000 Slovaks who attended the fifth year of testing the IT knowledge and skills within the IT Fitness test. It is coordinated by the IT Association of Slovakia (ITAS), which carries it out within the European campaign e-Skills for Jobs.

The main aim of this campaign is to raise awareness of the European Union’s citizens about the need to improve their IT skills in order to find jobs.

“About half of all employees in the EU sit behind the computer these days,” said Dušan Chrenek, head of the European Commission’s Representation in Slovakia, adding that in nearly 90 percent of job offers the employers require at least basic digital skills.

The Slovak IT Fitness test helps in a way that it does not only show what people can do in specific areas, but also on which areas and type of skills they should focus if they want to improve, Mário Lelovský, head of ITAS, told the press in mid-March.

This is important also for schools which may modify their teaching based on the results their pupils achieved in the testing.

The whole project was awarded by the EC in 2014 for its complex and innovative approach to improving the digital literacy of young people in Europe. It may now further develop as the EC has showed an interest in using its English version in other member states, Lelovský added.

Security is a weak point

The first phase of the testing took place between September 2015 and January 2016. It divided the respondents to two groups: primary school pupils and the others, which included also secondary school students and graduates. The main task regarding the latter group was to find out whether they are prepared for their further studies at university, focusing on IT, or for finding a job.

The test was attended by together 17,253 people older than 15 years of age. Their average success rate was 45.79 percent, which Lelovský does not consider a bad result.

“Our aim was not to create a test with high successful rate, but the test which will distinguish respondents with good knowledge and skills from those with weak knowledge and skills,” said František Jakab, the manager of the project in Slovakia.

The testing showed that people score poorly in tasks where they have to use abstraction, combine their theoretical knowledge with practical skills, and use more difficult operations. Moreover, they also achieved bad results in the category called “security” (less than 30 percent), which was linked to publishing the information on social networks or using passwords.

“It is a signal that it is necessary to focus on this and talk more about the security of computer systems,” Lelovský told the press, adding that it will become even more pressing issue with the arrival of new technologies with which people will share more information about them on the internet.

To improve the current state, it will be important to teach the internet users why it is important to observe internet security rules and what can happen if the information is abused, Jakab added.

On the other hand, Slovaks achieved very good results in using the internet (nearly 70 percent). This is partly the result of the fact that nearly every person has computer at home, according to Jakab.

The testing showed that people use the internet mostly for email and online communication (87 percent and 76.2 percent, respectively), but also for online purchases (80.8 percent), in which it achieves even better results than the EU average.

Also the use of internetbanking is gradually increasing. While in 2014 only more than 30 percent of respondents said they use this service, in 2015 it was nearly 70 percent.

On the other hand, Slovaks still do not use the video-on-demand services much. Their scores are even below the EU average. This may however change thanks to Netflix, Lelovský opines.

People want to study IT

The IT Fitness test also showed the growing interest in IT studies. While in 2014 only 28.09 percent of respondents said they want to study IT, the interest in the latest testing oscillated between 50 and 60 percent.

“Thus it is important for us to secure qualified labour force,” Lelovský said, adding that as a result they try to help schools reveal the weak points and remove them.

This is also the reason why the test focused also on pupils of primary and secondary schools. Together 2,746 pupils from primary schools aged 7-16 attended the testing, with the average success rate achieving 41.27 percent.

The results were very similar to those in tests for older respondents. The children had the best scores in the use of the internet category (60 percent), while they scored poorly in security (40 percent) and complex tasks (less than 30 percent).

According to Peter Kučera, coordinator of tests for primary schools, pupils usually score better in tasks which are somehow connected to their everyday life, like searching the information on the internet or using applications at smartphones.

As for the tasks they were weak at, he says that test results may be a good tool to show teachers on which topics they should focus during the education.

“The whole school should participate in this process,” Kučera told The Slovak Spectator.

One of the ambitions of ITAS is that the test is carried out at all schools in Slovakia. This will not only allow comparing the individual institutions, but also showing the headmasters what should be changed in IT classes, said Jakab.

EC is interested

The results of the IT Fitness test may also be used by job seekers who will bring the certificate with the result they achieved to their potential employers. According to Jakab, it is sometimes more valued than the certificate from the school leaving exams.

“Moreover, several universities have asked us whether they can use the test for entrance exams,” he told The Slovak Spectator.

The authors of the test also plan further expansion to other countries. The test is used also in the Czech Republic, which allows the comparison between the two countries, Jakab said.

It is, however, also possible that its English version will be used in the whole European Union, as the European Commission also showed an interest in it.

“It would provide more relevant comparison of the IT knowledge in Slovakia and other countries,” Lelovský said.

The EC considers the project important from the viewpoint of mapping the IT knowledge of citizens. EC President Jean-Claude Juncker even mentioned the test as a best practice in his 2015 annual report.

“IT Fitness test is a unique tool thanks to which thousands of Slovaks can learn about the real state of their IT knowledge,” Ingrid Ludviková of the EC Representation in Slovakia’s press department told The Slovak Spectator.

A high level of IT knowledge and skills is one of the basic prerequisites to create a digital single market in the EU, she added.

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