Written by Denise Chircop,
While schools have remained closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, students’ education cannot be suspended indefinitely without severe consequences. Alternative methods, mostly dependent on digital technology, have been adopted very rapidly. Organisations such as Unesco have been quick to monitor the situation, and the European Union too has followed developments in the Member States through its agencies and networks. Video-conferences between education ministers have been pivotal for them to discuss issues and learn from each other’s best practices.
What has started as an emergency has become an eye-opener, as existing educational gaps have become more visible. Socio-economic inequalities, greater difficulties of access for those with special educational needs, barriers in home–school communication and between teachers and educational authorities have been compounded by missing digital tools and skills.
The sudden leap has also given rise to outreach initiatives and a growing awareness of resources whose potential was still under-exploited. These included numerous online platforms and other resources that became freely available to salvage the situation. As teachers, students and parents experiment with new tools, policy-makers try to understand what can be more systematically adopted in the future to make education more flexible and inclusive, and what needs to be debunked.
Learning is not limited to schooling; vocational education and training, universities and adult education sectors have also struggled to maintain their activities. At the same time, they will be expected to contribute to the relaunch following the end of confinement. Given the economic downturn, guidance and career counselling will have a pivotal role in reskilling and upskilling the labour force. The European Union has a supportive role in this process and also needs to safeguard the wellbeing of participants in its programmes Erasmus+ and the European Solidarity Corps. The European Parliament is keen to ensure the institutions do all they can. Where does Isaac Newton fit in all this?
Read the complete briefing on ‘Education in isolation in the pandemic, following the path of Isaac Newton‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.