Standing Committee for Equality 2021: Ensuring equality and inclusive education in times of emergency


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On 16-17 February, more than 60 equality experts from across Europe gathered online for the annual meeting of the ETUCE Standing Committee for Equality, the consultative body to the ETUCE Committee, to exchange ideas and experiences on the promotion of equal opportunities in education. In answer to the recent health, social and economic crisis caused by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic that exposes and amplifies inequalities in education, this year’s meeting focused on the roles of education trade unions in ensuring equality and inclusive education in times of emergency.

Following the ETUCE Conference 2020, this meeting also opened a new mandate of the Standing Committee for Equality for the period 2021-2024. Rossella Benedetti (UIL Scuola, Italy) was re-confirmed as Chair of the statutory body, and Alexandra Cornea (FSLE, Romania) was re-elected in her role of Vice-chair.

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The discussion on the impact of COVID-19 on equality and inclusion in education was kicked off with speakers’ contributions from the European Students’ Union and EI African region, who provided evidence that the COVID-19 crisis had sorely impacted students’ academic performances, while teachers did not have the necessary skills, training and support to implement distance teaching. ETUCE member organisations shared their good practices on supporting education personnel and learners during the COVID-19 crisis, including online trainings on distant teaching, studying the impact of the COVID-19 on disadvantaged groups, supporting disadvantaged families, and providing targeted support to female members, ethnic minorities, members with disabilities and LGBTI teachers. In smaller breakout groups, trade union equality experts drafted a Recommendation on the role of education trade unions in ensuring equality and inclusion in education in times of emergency to ensure the respect of inclusion and equality during this COVID-19 pandemic and in future health, socio-economic, environmental and other crises.

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Following up on recent ETUCE activities and initiatives regarding equal opportunities at EU level, the meeting focused on a thematic discussion on gender equality in education and the future of work. European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) director, Carlien Scheele, presented the latest EIGE findings on gender inequalities in education. Among the main gender issues in education, Jolanda Reingardė, EIGE team leader for research and statistics, underlined the persistent gender pay gap women are experiencing, a substantial gender divide in education choice and digital skills (increasing with age), as well as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on gender inequality in unemployment rates, precarious working conditions, and care duties. Besides, EIGE is soon to publish a new study on ‘Gender equality and socio-economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis’.  Participants exchanged national experience in implementing the ETUCE Action Plan on Gender Equality. Amongst the good practices, member organisations from France, Georgia, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom shared examples of dialogue with government, campaigns, setting up of equality bodies, reports, action plans, and provision of legal assistance to address gender stereotypes, gender violence, and women’s underrepresentation in leadership positions.

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Flicker Photo album of the meeting here