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The Data Literacy Charter: Shaping Educational Processes for the 21st Century Together

DThis post originally appeared on the blog of the Hochschulforum Digitalisierung. Authors: Dr. Henning Koch, Katharina Schüller, Florian Rampelt

In early February 2021, the Stifterverband, together with numerous partners, published a Data Literacy Charter, which I had the honor of co-initiating as one of the three authors. The German Statistical Society is also among the first signatories. By signing the Data Literacy Charter, the signatories express a shared understanding of data competencies in terms of comprehensive data literacy and its significance in educational processes.

What is the purpose of a charter in general, and what do the partners aim to achieve with a Data Literacy Charter?

When one thinks about the term "charter," the "Charter of the United Nations" might quickly come to mind. Initially signed by 50 states in 1945, they aimed to prevent wars and enable cooperation. To make this as likely as possible, they agreed on universal goals and principles with the clear intention of "working together to achieve these goals."

To arrive at a charter that is signed by as many institutions and individuals as possible and then consistently supported requires a lot of dialogue. This is also true for the Data Literacy Charter of the Stifterverband, albeit on a much more modest scale.

To achieve this, the three authors—Henning Koch from the Stifterverband, Florian Rampelt from the Hochschulforum Digitalisierung, and I—engaged various experts, partners, and actors in discussions based on an initial draft. Although not involving 50 states, the dialogue for the Data Literacy Charter included at least as many commentators. This process can be quite strenuous, but it is essential for the actual goal of any charter: to act on the basis of a shared understanding and to cooperate.

If we want to collectively shape educational processes for the 21st century, a long journey lies ahead of us. The charter that provides us with orientation at the start is a first, rough map of the paths ahead. The longer we travel and the more we explore and develop these paths, the more accurately we can draw the map in the future.

In the "Data for the People" podcast by PARIS21/OECD, I discussed the background of the charter with Johannes Jütting:

The Data Literacy Charter highlights five guiding principles as key markers, underscoring the central importance of data literacy as a crucial skill for the 21st century and assigning it a significant role in general education:

  1. Data literacy must be accessible to all people.

  2. Data literacy must be imparted lifelong across all educational sectors.

  3. Data literacy must be taught as a transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary competence.

  4. Data literacy must systematically cover the entire process of knowledge acquisition and decision-making with data.

  5. Data literacy must encompass knowledge, skills, and attitudes for a conscious and ethically sound handling of data.

The signatories of the Data Literacy Charter will take actions to spread this understanding of data literacy and to further strengthen the associated competencies. They call on other actors to do the same within their scope of influence.

The charter encourages consideration of data competencies in all educational processes.

The fact that such prominent institutions as the Digital Council of the Federal Government and notable figures such as Dorothee Bär (State Minister for Digitalization at the Federal Chancellery), Dr. Georg Thiel (President of the Federal Statistical Office and Federal Returning Officer), or Prof. Dr. Gerd Gigerenzer (Director Emeritus at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development) are among the first signatories speaks to the topicality of the issue and the urgency of advancing it.

The Charter of the United Nations has been modified several times since its inception to adapt to changing circumstances. Similarly, the Data Literacy Charter is understood as the first sketch of a map we urgently need in a world shaped by digitalization. It provides orientation for a path that needs to be further traveled and explored. It shows the goal, the direction, and the first possible paths to it, which will become wider and more branched as we progress.

Therefore, the charter must be renegotiated and updated continuously if possible. Interested parties can also further use and adapt it for their respective areas, allowing a charter to remain dynamic and contemporary as a conceptual foundation and a call to action.

Let us embark on an exciting journey: stay in exchange, strengthen data competencies together, and design future-oriented educational processes!

This text is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License - CC BY-SA 4.0. Please mention the given author's name and the Hochschulforum Digitalisierung as the source if reused.


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