A Conference of Ministers of Education has called for increased efforts to protect the most vulnerable young people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Conference took place online on 29 October, under the Greek Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. The Council of Europe is an international organisation of 47 member states, including 27 from the European Union. It was set up to promote democracy and protect human rights in Europe.
During the Conference, Ministers endorsed a Political Declaration on Europe’s education response to the pandemic. The Declaration reaffirms the intention to ensure the right to education, which is enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Social Charter. It particularly recognises the need to ensure the right to education for the most vulnerable learners, and states that ‘Education systems can be of high quality only if they provide access to learning to all pupils and students, particularly those in vulnerable or disadvantaged groups, adapted to their needs as appropriate’. It also recognises and expresses gratitude to educational institutions, teachers, staff, learners and parents for the ways in which they responded quickly to the pandemic.
The Declaration also recognises the importance of learning from the current crisis, and asks the Council of Europe to work with member states to ensure that they are adequately prepared to address any future pandemic or other crisis. This includes developing guidelines and materials, and strengthening the role and recognising the importance of teachers.
Accompanying the Declaration is the Roadmap for Action on the Council of Europe response to COVID-19. The Roadmap outlines the steps the Council is taking help member states to ensure the right to education for their young people during the pandemic and beyond. It also includes links to a wealth of information and resources for policy-makers, teachers and learners.
Connected to this, exploratory desk research is taking place for an Agency project in 2021 on the pandemic and its effect on vulnerable learners and their environment. The desk research will examine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on general education and inclusive education at both European and international levels. The overall goal of the work is to identify gaps in the available information and collect possible questions for further examination that will inform the Agency’s future project work.
For more information or to read the Declaration and the Roadmap in full, visit the Council of Europe website.