New European Parliament working document on shaping digital education: support to teaching personnel and inclusion and equality must be central to the New Digital Education Action Plan


Drawing lessons from the COVID-19 crisis, the European Parliament Committee for Education and Culture (CULT) has published a working document on shaping digital education policy. It acknowledges the urgent need to focus on tackling disparities, ensuring widespread digital proficiency and protecting education as a public good by including teachers and practitioners, as the European Commission is set to release a revised Digital Education Action Plan (DEAP) in autumn 2020.

An integral part of the European Commission’s education strategy post-2020, the 2018 DEAP has been revised taking into account the replies from ETUCE, its member organisations and other actors in education to a public consultation on the challenges and lessons learnt from the unprecedented context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Indeed, the closure of entire education systems, rendered digital proficiency a prerequisite to access education. The emergency shift towards remote, and often online education relied on prior digital skills and access to quality infrastructure, resulting in the highlighting and worsening of pre-existing inequalities between students as well as teaching staff. Already in 2018, the ETUCE response to the publication of DEAP had put forth the crucial goal of overcoming the socio-digital divide. ETUCE therefore welcomes the CULT Committee’s call for “inclusion and equality” to be put “front and centre” in the new plan, stemming from the recognition that determinants such as socio-economic status, country and region (for instance, living in an urban or remote region) can impact students and their families’ access to quality digital tools as well as overall digital proficiency levels. However, ETUCE also reminds that such grounds as migratory status, gender, special needs, and linguistic skills should not be overlooked when it comes to inclusive digital education.

The CULT Committee also calls for “putting teachers and trainers at the heart of the digital education process, both in design and execution”, observing that many teachers had deplored lack of digital skills to be able to optimally adapt to the abrupt transition to remote and virtual teaching during the lockdown. This observation is in line with the ETUCE statement on “the road to recovery from the COVID-19 crisis” in which we stressed the need to elaborate, in close cooperation with education trade unions, comprehensive policies to enable education personnel to play their crucial role in tackling the digital skills gap and ensuring that no student is left behind. Extending this multi-stakeholder approach, the working paper recommends a co-creation approach to education and more consideration for the training of parents and other stakeholders faced with the need to adapt to digitalisation.

These positions are in line with our calls for a digital education policy that leaves no student behind,  and provides better initial and continuous digital training for education personnel, respectful of education personnel’s’ professional agency, as continuously expressed in our COVID-19 response.