Shaping a European digital education policy

The pandemic-induced switch to digital education has led to an increase in inequalities; with common European digital education policies we will leave no student behind, writes Victor Negrescu.
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By Victor Negrescu

Victor Negrescu (RO, S&D) is a vice-chair of Parliament’s Culture and Education Committee and a member of Parliament’s Budgets Committee

04 Mar 2021

1,6 billion learners in more than 190 countries were affected by the closure of educational institutions generated by the pandemic, meaning that 94 percent of the entire global population of learners had to switch from one day to another to digital education.

These issues pushed the European Parliament to initiate an own initiative report focusing on the need to shape a European digital education policy. The report was recently voted with a large majority in the Culture and Education Committee and will be voted on in the March plenary session.

It is clear today that the world was unprepared for this sudden switch to digital. Around 10 percent of pupils remained without access to education in the most developed countries, while in some cases, such as in Romania, close to 1 million children were left without any forms of education for almost one year.

According to specialised international education institutions, this has led to an increase in inequalities, based on the socio-economic and territorial profile of learners, generating a drop in the level of education which can in turn have a longer term impact on integration in an already changing labour market.

Our report seeks to clearly identify those challenges, the problems, but also the solutions currently available at EU level, while offering the clear perspective of common European digital education policies.

“The world was unprepared for this sudden switch to digital. Around 10 percent of pupils remained without access to education in the most developed countries, while in some cases, such as in Romania, close to 1 million children were left without any forms of education for almost one year”

We therefore call for a stronger integration of education in the European Semester format while introducing for the first time digital education as a special feature in the national reports drafted by the European Commission.

This is linked with the calls to allocate at least 10 percent for education and 20 percent for the digital transformation in the Recovery and Resilience plans of Member States.

Confronted with common challenges we need common solutions. From infrastructure to data protection, from methods to digital education platforms, from teacher training to lifelong learning education, all require a European response and synergies between Member States.

The European Commission Digital Education Action Plan and the Digital Skills Agenda have clear targets that, in order to be met, have to be implemented fully across Europe.

The report supports the creation of the digital education hub and of the stakeholder consultations and asks for a bigger role for the European Parliament in drafting future initiatives.

“From infrastructure to data protection, from methods to digital education platforms, from teacher training to lifelong learning, all require a European response and synergies between Member States”

Therefore, we come with new initiatives like the creation of the European Online University platform or the promotion of AI and robotics in education.

It is clear that we also need to invest more in education infrastructure, adapted to the type of education and to learners, by fighting against budgetary fragmentation and, for that, MEPs across the political landscape are underlining in the report that access to digital infrastructure is a right.

Digital education should not be a privilege anymore and no student should be left behind.

The report opens up the discussion on some of the most significant challenges linked with data and cyber-protection, the lack of European educational platforms and technologies or the changes in the education environment and the need to regulate the new digital education market.

The report represents a strong message coming from the European Parliament that education should be higher on the agenda of the European Union, calling for the Porto Summit declaration to actively come up with viable European solutions for education.

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