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MEPs call for digital gap in education to be closed

Members of the European Parliament have called on the member states to make a priority of closing the digital gap in education.

The current situation with the Covid-19 pandemic and its effect on education has highlighted many of the inequities in society, in particular the gap between children and young people who have access to computers and the internet and those who do not.

When the situation forces schools to turn towards distance learning, the impact can be serious for those students who do not have direct access to computers, or only in a very limited way.

According to UNESCO, even in the world’s most developed countries, access to digital education was around 90%, with 10% of school pupils still being left behind, during the first Covid-19 crisis.

In some member states, as many as 32% of students have had no access to education at all in the course of recent months, and there are “severe discrepancies” in others. MEPs fear that this could depress incomes for an entire generation, bringing down productivity and competitiveness for the EU in general.

Many countries are still unprepared in the face of the second wave that is now hitting Europe,” commented Romanian MEP Victor Negrescu of the parliament’s culture and education committee.

More should be done to guarantee access to quality education and training for all, and for that we need to invest in education.”

And he expressed the committee’s “deep regret” that the Council of Ministers is proposing cuts to programmes supporting education and training. Instead, the committee agreed, the Erasmus+ budget should be tripled, while member states should increase their own public spending on education.

The Commission must prioritise investments in education in its recovery plan,” he said. MEPs also criticised the lack of coordination and the exchange of best education practices during the crisis, and called on the EU to be more active in coordinating between states. “We welcome the education package put forward by the Commission at the end of September; however, it is only the first step,” said rapporteur Sabine Verheyen after the vote.

It is now time for the vision for a European Education Area and a revamped Digital Education Action Plan to be backed up by concrete measures and with the funding to deliver them.”

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times