In mid-April 2020, no less than 188 countries around the world had closed schools nationwide, affecting some 1.5 billion learners and representing 91% of learners enrolled in schools. Having learnt the lessons of the COVID-19 crisis, a team of S&D MEPs, led by Victor Negrescu as rapporteur on a report on the Shaping of Digital Education Policy, worked on a set of new European standards to improve digital learning in the EU. Ahead of the European Commission’s long-awaited Digital Education Action Plan, the S&D recommendations have been included in a working document by the committee on culture and education on Shaping Digital Education Policy.
Victor Negrescu, EP rapporteur on digital education, stated:
“Digital education is more than a tool; it became a necessity and a widespread solution in facing the lockdown and providing education to as many learners as possible. This new reality underlined the need for a European approach to digital education in identifying tailored solutions for the new challenges, while at the same time working with global institutions and actors. While there has been much innovation and remarkable creativity enabling many to continue learning, the overall picture has been of a rushed digital transition, which has left those who were already behind even further behind. Access to digital education shouldn’t be a privilege.
“Special actions, financially supported by European and national programmes, are needed to support teachers, parents, pupils, students and concerned actors. In some parts of the world, remote learning is virtually impossible to deliver with less than 25% of low-income countries providing any form of remote learning. In Romania, close to 1 million children, representing 32% of pupils in the country, did not have access to education for several months due to low access to basic infrastructure. The facts are clear: even in Europe, not all households have even one usable computer or a WiFi connection. These are the bare basics for any form of online learning.
“If anything, the shift to online learning has exacerbated inherent social inequalities, leading to severe delays and school dropout. No learner should be left behind. Now it’s time to get the Commission and member states to act on that!”
Petra Kammerevert, S&D spokeswoman on education, stated:
“Whenever we talk about resilience and the Next Generation EU, we must first of all address the needs of young people in Europe. It is currently becoming clear how much political desire and reality in terms of digital education are falling apart, and how huge the backlog demand is everywhere in the EU.
“We Socialists and Democrats are showing ways and means to finally achieve tangible progress in digital education. Moreover, rescue packages must not be passed at the expense of social, educational or cultural policy investments that are long overdue and whose importance has become all the more apparent in recent weeks.”
The working document by the committee on culture and education on Shaping Digital Education Policy is available here.