Brussels, 8 March 2021
EaP CSF COVID-19 Policy Paper on access to online and offline education
The sudden outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools and universities to close and shift their classes online. With no end in sight, many students are still unable to access and follow education online. This policy paper outlines the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the online and offline education in the Eastern Partnership countries and reveals potential hidden opportunities that could emerge from the pandemic.
The growth and adoption of digital education in the Eastern Partnership countries has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to a chronic, pre-COVID-19 underfunding of educational and technological infrastructure, and a lack of modernisation of teachers’ skills, the region was not able to deliver an effective educational experience for students.
The pandemic has highlighted longstanding inequalities and widened learning gaps. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds have been particularly affected. At the same time, the current crisis is an unprecedented opportunity to revamp the educational system and overcome historical scepticism towards online and “open” learning. This change of perspective will help level the playing field and improve equitable access to higher education and life-long learning for underrepresented groups.
To ensure a sustainable post-pandemic recovery, educational opportunities for the EaP youth need to be sustained and enhanced. The EU should fund capacity building initiatives for schools and higher education institutions, and invest in technical equipment for students at risk, to further develop access to education in the EaP. It is essential to ensure that EU funding goes beyond the capitals and reaches remote regions. Thus, effective monitoring of the reach and impact of EU funding must be carried out.
Regarding EaP governments, the fight against corruption in the education sector and transparent procedures in educational leadership appointments should be a priority. Finally, civil society can facilitate peer learning activities in the EaP countries to encourage reciprocal learning among EaP youth.