Today the JRC releases the results of 105 in-depth interviews with children aged 6-12 and their parents from 10 EU countries, exploring how they coped with schooling during the spring 2020 COVID-19 lockdown.
While most children interviewed said they enjoyed using digital technologies for remote schooling, they and their parents were critical of the way it was used during the lockdown.
Vice-President for Democracy and Demography, Dubravka Šuica, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic had, and still has, a considerable impact on children. It has also deepened the digital divide across our societies. Promoting equal opportunities is critical for all children. Access to free quality education is key. Since much of the schooling went online, we must break through the barriers to education, be it cost-related or digital. All children, regardless of their background or where they live deserve an equal start in life.”
Schools, and more generally education, did integrate digital technology to ensure children continued to have access to education. However, many schools were not prepared for this emergency situation and many had no other option but to opt for readily available solutions. This led to challenges for teachers, students and families.
The report calls for policies and future research to continue to take into account children’s perspectives, given this is a situation that primarily affects them. It also provides recommendations on how future education policies can help children get the most out of the opportunities of blended learning that incorporates digital and physical approaches.
How families coped with remote schooling
The report complements JRC analysis of survey data released in November last year. It adds to the evidence that children grew tired of remote schooling, and further highlights the need for better guidelines for parents of how to support children with blended education.
For a quality digital education in a similar situation, teachers, parents and students need more advanced digital competences to use digital technologies in the most positive way. Other insights from the in-depth interviews include:
- Children were motivated to learn new skills, especially digital skills. When they had a supportive environment, they found various way to teach themselves;
- Many children found remote schooling less engaging than face-to-face instruction and found themselves bored, unable to stay focused and motivated. This highlights the need for a better design of online and remote instruction, ideally in a blended approach;
- The organisation of remote schooling at home was a major challenge. It was not easy for parents to be engaged in communicating school tasks to their children, the delivery of schoolwork to the teacher, and ensuring that their children have done the tasks on time whilst balancing family needs and work life. Mothers found the balancing harder, as the demand on them was heavier;
- Digital tiredness became an important issue during this period, with children saying they felt exhausted. Remote schooling does not always have to rely on technology. Books and paper are still valid methods of instruction, especially when combined with digital tools.
This report is linked to the Digital Education Action Plan. It feeds into the Commission’s proposal for a Council recommendation on blended learning for high quality and inclusive primary and secondary education. The Commission proposes shorter-term measures to address the most pressing gaps exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a way forward for blending learning environments and tools in primary and secondary education and training, that can help build more resilient education and training systems.
Earlier this year, the Commission put forward the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child to tackle the root causes of existing inequality and poverty, proposing concrete actions to support children, and fulfil, protect and promote their rights in the EU and globally. A key deliverable of the Strategy is an update to the Better Internet for Children Strategy in 2022, to ensure that children enjoy the same rights on- and offline.
‘Remote schooling during and after COVID-19 spring 2020 lockdown: A closer look at European families’ is one of the first reports to provide data on what happened in European households during and after the spring COVID-19 lockdown. Children and their parents were interviewed in Austria, Croatia, Denmark, France, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain.
The report is part of the JRC Kids' Digital lives in COVID-19 Times (KiDiCoTi) project. The project gathers data to map the evolution of children's digital engagement during the coronavirus lock-down, with a particular focus on children’s online safety, privacy and well-being. This knowledge will assist policymakers and education stakeholders in understanding future models of education blending online and physical formats.
JRC science for Policy report: Remote schooling during and after COVID-19 spring 2020 lockdown: A closer look at European families
- Publication date
- 19 November 2021