Accelerating the Teaching Transformation

Sylvie Lecherbonnier, Translated by Nina Fink
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Gilles Babinet USAGE UNIQUE
According to Gilles Babinet, universities don't invest enough in digital and French education is not evolving. // ©  Glen RECOURT/REA
Gilles Babinet, France's digital champion at the European Commission, maintains that French higher education needs to speed up its digital transformation. He urges schools to kick things into gear by breaking some rules in favor of experimentation. We spoke with Babinet to find out more.

In your 2014 book "L'Ère numérique, un nouvel âge de l'humanité", you wrote that education would be one of the top five fields to be transformed by digital. Where do things stand now?

There have been some new developments. Yet universities don't invest enough in digital and efforts are spread too thin. French education is not evolving. It needs to change from the outside in. Universities should be able to break rules when they experiment with digital. Not all faculty members should be required to do research. There is far too little emphasis placed on teaching compared with research.

So teaching should be reprioritized?

That is where we need to invest above all. Digital is not very valuable on its own. We should look at the potential of new teaching methods, not at the tools themselves. Let's stop pitting remote and classroom learning against one another. MOOC are great but students forget what they've learned three times as fast.

You raise the need for more educational research.

Yes. Unlike in the U.S., educational research doesn't exist in France, with the exception of the work of François Taddei.

Given the current inertia, do you see promise in the emergence of new players?

There are several fairly disruptive French coding initiatives, for example, Epitech and Simplon. Yet the educational system has ignored them. True reform is never top down. That said, how can we share best practices in a way that allows them to filter down?

You blame the government.

Politicians aren't humble enough to realize that the educational system is outdated. We're living in a world of digital illiterates. We need to be able to talk about the tools of the future, like Slack and GitHub. If politicians spoke digital, they could reenergize the country by reforming education.

I'm a bit of a revolutionary. I'd like to see the next generation take control and youth sit in the driver's seat. Economist Michel Godet has showed that there's a clear link between productivity growth and the age of our leaders, especially in times of transition.

Sylvie Lecherbonnier, Translated by Nina Fink | Publié le