Institute of the Weltethos Foundation
at the University of Tübingen

First slide

The Data Literacy Charter: Shaping educational processes together for the 21st century

Published on February 12, 2021

This post first appeared on the Blog of the Hochschulforum Digitalisierung. Authors: Dr. Henning Koch, Katharina Schüller, Florian Rampelt

At the beginning of February 2021, the Stifterverband, together with numerous partners, adopted a Data Literacy Charter which I had the privilege of initiating as one of the three authors. The German Statistical Society is also one of the first institutions to have signed. With the Data Literacy Charter, the signatories express their common understanding of data literacy that emphasizes the importance of comprehensive data literacy and its role in educational processes.

What is the purpose of a charter in the first place and what do the partners want to achieve with the Data Literacy Charter?

If you think about the term “charter,” for example, the “Charter of the United Nations” quickly comes to mind. At the beginning, 50 states signed it in 1945. They wanted 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 “combin[ing their] efforts to accomplish these aims.”

In order to arrive at a charter that is signed by as many institutions and people as possible and then consistently supported, a lot of discussions have to take place in advance. This also applies – to a much more modest extent, of course – to the Stifterverband’s Data Literacy Charter.

To this end, the three authors – Henning Koch from the Stifterverband, Florian Rampelt from the Hochschulforum Digitalisierung, and myself – brought together various experts, partners, and actors to discuss this issue based on an initial draft. While the Data Literacy Charter did not involve 50 states, it did involve at least as many commentators. This can be quite a strenuous undertaking, but it is necessary to achieve the actual goal of any charter: On the basis of a common understanding  to work together, that is to act together.

If we want to shape educational processes for the 21st century together, we have a long journey ahead of us. The charter that gives us guidance as we set out is only an initial, rough map of the paths that lie ahead of us. The longer we are on the road and the more we have tried and developed these paths, the more accurately we will be able to draw the map in the future.

In the PARIS21/OECD podcast “Data for the People,” I spoke with Johannes Jütting about the background to the Charter:

The Data Literacy Charter focuses on five guiding principles as milestones. These characterize the central importance of Data Literacy as a Key Competence of the 21st Century and assign it an important place in general education:

  1. Data literacy must be accessible to all.
  2. Data literacy must be part of a lifelong learning process in all educational settings.
  3. Data literacy must be taught as a transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary skill.
  4. Data literacy must systematically cover the entire process of gaining knowledge and making decisions with data.
  5. Data literacy must include knowledge, skills, and values for conscious and ethical use of data.

The signatories of the Data Literacy Charter will take measures to disseminate this understanding of data literacy and to further strengthen the associated competences. They call on other actors to do the same within their sphere of influence. 

The Charter encourages the topic of data literacy to be included in all educational processes

The fact that among the first signatories are such prominent institutions as the Digital Council of the Federal Government and well-known personalities such as Dorothee Bär (Minister of State for Digitalization in the Federal Chancellery), Dr. Georg Thiel (President of the Federal Statistical Office and Federal Election Commissioner), or Prof. Dr. Gerd Gigerenzer (director emeritus at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development), speaks to the timeliness of the issue and the urgency of pushing it forward.

The United Nations Charter has been amended time and again since its creation. That has enabled it to adapt to changing circumstances. The Data Literacy Charter also sees itself as a first outline of a map urgently needed in a world dominated by digitization. It provides orientation for a path that must be further traveled and explored. It shows the goal, the direction, and the first possible paths to reach the goal, and these paths become wider and more branched the farther along we go.

That is why the Charter should and must negotiated over and over again and be updated as continuously as possible. Anyone interested can use and adapt it for their respective fields. In this way, even a charter can remain dynamic and contemporary as a conceptual basis and as a call to action.

Let’s get started on an exciting journey: stay in touch, strengthen data competencies together, and shape educational processes that look to the future!

This text is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license – CC BY-SA 4.0. Please cite the author’s name as well as the Hochschulforum Digitalisierung as the source in any subsequent use.