Commission seeks to mitigate inequalities between children in distance learning

For EU Commissioner Nicolas Schmit, this is a major challenge for the EU: “We are in a digital society and we should not leave part of our citizens, especially children, outside this digital society”. [EPA-EFE/FRANCOIS WALSCHAERTS]

The European Commission has called on member states to invest in equipment and training to mitigate “inequalities between children” which have been highlighted by the use of distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Distance learning has been adopted by schools as a way of responding to the constraints imposed by the pandemic has shown that “inequalities between children can increase”, Nicolas Schmit, the European Commissioner for Employment and Social Rights, told a press conference held after the informal Council of EU education ministers.

“[In the European Social Pillar] there is a principal about equal opportunities and therefore it is essential to invest a lot in equipment and also to invest in children’s digital capacities, through schools, in order to allow all children to have the right connections”, the Commissioner said, recalling that “there are many poor families who do not have an internet connection”.

For Schmit, this is a major challenge for the EU: “We are in a digital society and we should not leave part of our citizens, especially children, outside this digital society”.

At the same press conference, Commissioner Mariya Gabriel (Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth) argued that the solution lies in “permanent contact” between the 27 so that they can “share the lessons they have learned during the crisis” caused by the pandemic.

To this end, she said, the EU executive will this year propose “a recommendation on distance learning” as part of the action plan for digital education for the period 2021 to 2027.

The Commissioner called for more coordination between EU member states and announced that there will be a concrete proposal this year to establish a digital education ‘hub’, allowing the 27 to work together.

Launched last November, this action plan advocates the need to ensure digital infrastructure, connectivity and equipment, to equip teachers and trainers with digital skills to use high-quality learning content.

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