The ECDL is not really very exciting. It's just a basic qualification in using computers. In the UK, it's no longer possible to run courses for people to study just for the fun of it; there has to be a qualification at the end, or no funding is forthcoming. Some of my students do want to use the qualification in work; our local council also send lots of their employees on our computer courses, even though they are not primarily working with computers. I had quite a few of the local librarians last year. On the other hand, many of my students are retired and just want to know how to use a computer to produce a newsletter for their local club or society, how to find information on the web and how to use e-mail to keep in touch with the family. However, they still have to negotiate the tests and with luck, will finish with a nice certificate, a credit card style card declaring that they hold the ECDL and the little passport-like booklet in which their progress through the course is recorded, all duly signed, stamped and endorsed that they've passed.
The qualification is also found in the US and other places outside Europe as the ICDL, which is International Computer Driving Licence.
The reason I don't like the name is that it gives the impression
that you're not going to be allowed to use a computer in work unless you have the qualification, which is simply not true.
A much more aptly named qualification is the CLAIT certificate, run by a much older awarding body, now called OCR though formerly RSA, well known for their shorthand and typing qualifications. CLAIT (or New CLAIT as it is now called after its recent re-vamp) simply stands for Computer Literacy And Information Technology. As IT qualifications go, it must be one of the first in the UK as it dates back to the mid-80s to my knowledge. Aimed at beginners, it gives a good grounding in a variety of software packages and -- unlike the ECDL -- the student (or more realistically the tutor) can choose from a number of different options. Although they're both officially Level 1 qualifications, we start our beginners on CLAIT and then have them progress to the ECDL.