Following the current situation related to the COVID-19 and its significant outbreak on both global and EU level, the Croatian Presidency has decided to organize a high-level videoconference of the EU education ministers.
The aim of the videoconference today was to share and discuss different challenges and experiences of Member States.
The videoconference was a valuable opportunity for Member States to exchange current information on the state-of-play with regards to the implications of the novel coronavirus on our education and training systems.
Ministers agreed that they all want the same: to ensure the safety of our pupils, students and staff and to secure the continuation of learning without major educational disruptions. In that respect, they discussed the available possibilities in terms of offering online classes and virtual cooperation. They exchanged information and experiences regarding support and guidance provided to education and training institutions, staff and families and also touched upon the implications of the crisis on the EU mobility, reflecting on the virtual possibilities and formats.
Although many EU countries are now faced with the challenge brought by the coronavirus, there are differences in the extent of required measures. In this respect, several countries have decided to take measures in terms of closing some or all education institutions, for a varying time period, from a couple of days, two weeks or for an undetermined period, pending further developments concerning the spreading of the novel coronavirus. Such decisions are taken at different levels, either school, municipal, regional or state level.
Education institutions have been provided with recommendations and guidance concerning preventive measures, travelling and event organization, hygiene and steps to be taken in case infection occurs in education institutions or among their staff. Besides staff, pupils and students, information of this kind has also been shared with parents.
Since working parents of small children may be facing particular challenges in case education institutions would need to be closed, Member States are exploring different possible measures to provide adequate support. Measures include possibilities related to remote working and flexible working hours, complementing the existing possibilities of sick leave in case children are infected or quarantined.
Many Member States already have some kind of possibilities for virtual learning, which can facilitate teaching and learning in this situation. Some are working on upgrading such possibilities, to improve availability and opportunities, allow for wider participation and support more efficient use of such resources. Many school excursions have been postponed and cancelled. Concerning mobility in general, national agencies for EU mobility programmes are regularly disseminating information and instructions provided by the European Commission to beneficiaries. Moreover, whenever possible, participants are encouraged to refocus on virtual mobility.
Today’s ministers exchange of information once again showed the importance of our cooperation in terms of learning from each other, sharing useful practices and potential solutions.
“Although education and training policies are a national competence, viruses do not stop at our borders. This is why our cooperation and mutual support in this challenging time are vital in facing this crisis” Minister Blaženka Divjak