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28th Feb 2021

Pandemic exposed gulf in EU digital-schooling

  • While young people are widely seen as a generation of ‘digital natives’, 15 percent of students in the EU have insufficient digital skills (Photo: Chris_Parfitt)

The pandemic has revealed "large disparities" in digital education between and within EU states, according to a report published by the European Commission on Thursday (12 November).

As a result, adaptation to the Covid-19 crisis was easier for those who were more advanced in digital education, as a result of implementing national strategies in recent years, such as Finland, Denmark, and Estonia.

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The closure of educational centres lasting for two-to-six months affected more than 95 million students and eight million teachers across the EU at all educational levels, making it difficult for many to access school lessons.

While in Italy 48 percent of pupils were left without education for months, the share in Slovenia was fewer than two percent.

Although all EU countries put in place remote learning schemes as a temporary measure to replace physical presence at school, distance learning requires certain minimum skills and technicalities.

For students to successfully take part in distance class, each individual should have a computer or a tablet at their disposal, combined with a fast internet connection, but also a quiet room - requirements that poorer households often cannot afford.

For instance, only eight percent of students who attend schools located in a village or small cities have access to a high-speed Internet.

Additionally, the report indicates that more than 15 percent of students across the bloc have insufficient digital skills, even though young people are widely seen as a generation of 'digital natives'.

"We believe it is necessary to bring about deep changes in digital education and we are committed to increasing digital literacy in Europe," said EU education commissioner Mariya Gabriel in a statement.

That is why the EU executive recently unveiled its digital education action plan for the next six years, which aims to support member states to make education and training systems fit for the modern age.

The pandemic pointed out the benefits of digital solutions for teaching and learning in Europe, but also the lack of the infrastructure and skills needed in some member states.

Last month, MEPs called for the digital gap in education to be closed, urging the commission to prioritise investment in connectivity and equipment, particularly in remote and rural areas, as well as in teacher-training on how to use new technologies.

Between 2015 and 2018, member states maintained around 10 percent of public spending on education.

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