On 13 October 2020, Romanian Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Eugen Tomac of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:
“The fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has extended beyond the acute health crisis, impacting on all areas of society in a chain reaction. Children have been among the most vulnerable over this period, having been compelled to adapt to different forms of education. While over 90% of countries have introduced distance learning, a figure that seems quite satisfactory on the face of it, this still leaves many children deprived of access to such new forms of teaching.
A UNICEF study reveals that at least 463 million pupils worldwide are not in fact receiving an education, either as a result of distance learning policies or because they simply do not have the necessary facilities at home. In fact, the number of children without access to education has risen significantly during this period.
Furthermore, the well-being of children in general will be gravely compromised by failure to take firm and decisive action in response to this worldwide crisis. In view of this, what measures have been taken or envisaged by Commission to ensure equal distance opportunities for all children?”
On 3 February 2021, Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Commissioner Mariya Gabriel responded on behalf of the European Commission stating: “While the competence for education and training rests with Member States, the EU supports them by identifying good practices on digitalisation, for instance through the Working Groups on Digital Education and Innovation and Digitalisation in Vocational Education and Training.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, the Commission hosted a Distance Learning Network between education minitries. An extraordinary Erasmus+ call on digital readiness for education addressed the implications of the crisis. Digitalisation is supported through the European Structural and Investment Funds, with a focus on inclusiveness.
Under the Digital Education Action Plan (2021-2027), a strategic dialogue with Member States will look into bridging access and equipment gaps, promoting accessibility and supporting education institutions. The Recovery and Resilience Facility and the Connecting Europe Facility will play a key role in promoting better access to connectivity for education institutions.
The Commission will propose Council Recommendations on distance and online learning and improving digital competence in an inclusive way, including for teachers. High-quality and inclusive education is at the heart of the European Education Area.
It foresees the ‘Pathway to School Success’ initiative and the creation of an expert group on supportive learning environments for groups at risk and well-being at school. Inclusion is also a priority of the Council Recommendation on Vocational Education and Training, which aims to strengthen digitalisation.
Ensuring equitable and inclusive education systems is on the Commission’s international cooperation agenda. It supports its partner countries in developing distance learning programmes.”
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