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7 February 2011
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What is ICT Skill for Life?

Alan Clarke, Associate Director of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE), sets out what delivering ICT as a skill for life will mean.


Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has transformed society.

It has had a major influence on the way we live, work and learn. Already 60% of existing and 90% of new jobs require some ICT skills.

It is now normal on any train to see people using laptop computers. You can check your e-mail in many coffee bars using their wireless network or a mobile device.

Thousands of people arrange their own international holidays using the World Wide Web and manage their finances online. You can also choose to study through technology when, where and how you prefer.

In addition to these visible changes, technology has penetrated many familiar aspects of daily life.

Digital television and radio, for example, has brought technology directly into the living room. These changes have undoubtedly contributed to the government's decision to declare ICT a new Skill for Life alongside literacy, numeracy and English for speakers of other languages.

The need for ICT

'Skill for Life' is essentially the modern term for basic skills; that is, the skills that people need in order not to be seriously disadvantaged in their economic and social lives.

Adults without ICT skills are going to have more difficulty getting employment, gaining promotion or even retaining their jobs. In their social lives they will be increasingly distanced from the many benefits, large and small, that come with being comfortable with technology.

A national survey by the DFES in 2003 showed that 53% of adults have very limited ICT skills...

They will be unable to access government services which are increasingly online, to help their children's education through ICT or simply to buy their groceries at a distance.

A national survey by the DFES in 2003 showed that 53% of adults have very limited ICT practical skills indicating the scale of the task facing the new initiative.

The Qualification and Curriculum Authority (QCA) has developed the ICT Skill for Life standard which defines the essential skills that you need to play an active part in society.

It is based on the National Occupational Standard for users of ICT. The standard is presented in five levels from entry level 1, 2 and 3 to levels 1 and 2.

A copy of the standard can be downloaded from the QCA website. It is accompanied by guidance which provides a range of examples of what people should be able to achieve through its use.

ICT Opinion

by Ena Jesani

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