Blended learning

Blended learning in formal education and training involves a diversity of approaches and is to be understood as a school (in primary and secondary education, including vocational education and training), teacher and trainer or learner taking more than one approach to the learning process:

  • blending school site and other physical environments away from the school site (either with the presence of a teacher/trainer, or separated by space and/or time in distance learning);
  • blending different learning tools that can be digital (including online learning) and non-digital.

Using their professional pedagogical judgement, teachers, trainers and schools will select and facilitate the use of these approaches as part of engaging and effective learning tasks that support broad competence development, as appropriate to the age, abilities and circumstances of the learners and intended learning outcomes.

Other physical environments may include, for example, on the one hand: the home; hospitals (in the case of sick or injured children); and on the other hand cultural and memory institutions; farms, companies and other workplaces; nature sites and outdoors; sports and youth spaces (Council of the European Union, 2021, p. 12).

Digital divide

Digital divide refers to ‘the gap between those who can benefit from digital technology and those who cannot’ (Digital Divide Institute, 2015, cited in UNESCO IITE/European Agency, 2011, p. 101).

The digital divide in formal schooling is not simply an equipment differential that can be overcome with further selective investments in hardware, software, and networking. Instead it derives from both within school and within home differences that extend to learning standards as well as support. Student self-learning ability, and in particular, student ability for independent learning, is an additional factor. National policies that attempt to close the digital divide for schooling must attend to all of these contributing factors to be successful (Venezky, 2000, p. 76).

Digital education

Digital education comprises two different but complementary perspectives: the pedagogical use of digital technologies to support and enhance teaching, learning and assessment and the development of digital competences by learners and education and training staff (European Commission, 2020, p. 95).

Disability rights to education

The 2006 UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) guaranteed the right to inclusive education but stopped short of precisely defining inclusion in education. The struggle of people with disabilities has shaped perspectives on inclusion in education.

In 2016, General Comment No. 4 to CRPD Article 24 described inclusive education as involving ‘a process … to provide all students … with an equitable and participatory learning experience and environment that best corresponds to their requirements and preferences’ (UNESCO, 2020a, p. 4).

Disadvantaged school

A socio-economically disadvantaged (advantaged) school is a school whose socio-economic profile (i.e. the average socio-economic status of the students in the school) is in the bottom (top) quarter of the PISA index of economic, social and cultural status amongst all schools in the relevant country/economy (OECD, 2020a, p. 20).

Distance learning

Distance learning refers to ‘methods of teaching that take place entirely outside of the classroom environment’ (Education Endowment Foundation, 2020, p. 2).

In a broad sense, distance learning is a term often used synonymously with online learning, e-learning, distance education, correspondence education, external studies, flexible learning, and massive open online courses (MOOCs). Common features of any form of distance learning are: the teacher-learner separation by space or time, or both, and the use of media and technology to enable communication and exchange during the learning process despite this separation. This may be achieved through print-based learning materials, or one-way massive broadcasting (TV and radio programmes), or through web-based exchange using social media channels or learning platforms. Distance learning tends to require a high level of self-directed learning on the part of the learner, and study skills, which must be supported through new teaching, learning and guidance strategies (UNESCO, 2020b, p. 2).

Formative assessment

A variety of methods teachers use to evaluate learner comprehension, learning needs and academic progress during a lesson or course. Formative assessment can help teachers identify concepts that learners are struggling to understand, skills they are having difficulty acquiring or learning standards they have not yet achieved so that lessons, teaching/learning approaches and support can be adjusted.

Formative assessment aims to collect detailed information that can be used to improve teaching and learning while it is happening. What makes an assessment ‘formative’ is not the design of a test, technique or self-evaluation, per se, but the way it is used — i.e. to inform in-process teaching and learning modifications.

Formative assessment is an integral part of effective teaching. It helps learners to develop an understanding of their own strengths and development needs (adapted from ‘formative assessment’ in the Glossary of Education Reform).


Inclusion is both a principle and a process: ‘Inclusion and equity in and through education is the cornerstone of a transformative education agenda […] No education target should be considered met unless met by all’ (World Education Forum, 2015, p. 2).

It can be seen as: ‘A process consisting of actions and practices that embrace diversity and build a sense of belonging, rooted in the belief that every person has value and potential and should be respected’ (UNESCO, 2020a, p. 419).

The term was often associated with disability, but now extends to wider groups as ‘a response to increasingly complex and diverse societies. It treats diversity as an asset which helps prepare individuals for life and active citizenship in increasingly complex, demanding, multi-cultural and integrated societies’ (Soriano, Watkins and Ebersold, 2017, p. 7).

Inclusive education

‘An education that promotes mutual respect and value for all persons and builds educational environments in which the approach to learning, the institutional culture and the curriculum reflect the value of diversity’ (UNESCO, 2020a, p. 420).

The Agency views inclusive education as ‘a systemic approach to providing high quality education in mainstream schools that effectively meets the academic and social learning needs of all the learners from the school’s local community’ (European Agency, 2015, p. 2).

Inclusive education supposes a real change at both policy and practice levels regarding education. Learners are placed at the centre of a system that needs to be able to recognise, accept and respond to learner diversity. Inclusive education aims to respond to the principles of efficiency, equality and equity, where diversity is perceived as an asset. Learners also need to be prepared to engage in society, to access meaningful citizenship and to acknowledge the values of human rights, freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination (Soriano, Watkins and Ebersold, 2017, p. 6).

Mental health

Mental health is influenced by many factors, including genetic predisposition, socio-economic background, adverse childhood experiences, chronic medical conditions or abuse of alcohol or drugs.

Therefore, mental health and well-being are interlinked issues that are affected by policies and actions in a range of sectors, including education, health, employment, social inclusion and efforts to tackle poverty.

This relationship is reciprocal: without adequate mental health prevention, support and treatment, the risks of poorer education or unemployment increase.

To be mentally healthy means being capable of self-realisation, being at ease when forming the relationships with other people, to contribute to the life in the community and being productive at work. A mentally healthy individual is also able to overcome normal tensions, sorrows and life setbacks (European Commission, no date).

Mental health is explicitly included in the Sustainable Development Goals, ‘providing an opportunity to enhance mental health and well-being across countries and professional disciplines’ (Dybdahl and Lien, 2017, p. 1).

(See also ‘Well-being’)

Out-of-school learner

The literature on national-level work shows that different terms are used across and within countries to refer to out-of-school: not enrolled, drop-out, early school leavers and not in education, employment or training (NEET) are some, but not all, in evidence. In addition, there is ambiguity around the notion of absenteeism. A learner’s transition from being ‘absent from school’ to formally ‘dropping out’ is rarely clearly defined in research or data collection.

Within work linked to Sustainable Development Goal 4, UNESCO has developed the following working definitions for:

  • Out-of-school children: ‘Children in the official primary school age range who are not enrolled in either primary or secondary school’.
  • Out-of-school adolescents and youth: ‘Those of lower or upper secondary school age who are not enrolled in primary, secondary, post-secondary non-tertiary or tertiary education’ (UNESCO, 2018, p. 356).

Being considered out-of-school is most often linked to a learner’s age in relation to compulsory education, and their access to, enrolment in and participation in some form of educational provision.

The COVID-19 crisis in education will probably reshape the notions of ‘out of school’ and ‘drop out’. School closures, moves towards distance and blended teaching and learning methods and the rise in home schooling have implications for access to education and access to an inclusive education for a growing number of learners.


UNICEF describes participation as:

… an ongoing process of children’s expression and active involvement in decision-making at different levels in matters that concern them, requiring information-sharing and dialogue between children/adolescents and adults based on mutual respect, and … [requiring] that full consideration of their views be given, taking into account the child’s age and maturity (2013, p. 7).

Like educational inclusion, participation is often seen as a human rights issue and an essential component of social justice (European Agency, 2011).

Participation is about the quality of the learning experience from a learner perspective, and therefore it must incorporate the views of the learners themselves. … It relates to school-level process factors which facilitate or hinder a sense of belonging and a sense of autonomy to the learner, as well as a sense of a meaningful participation with peers of the same age. As such, participation mainly refers to processes at the meso (school or classroom) and micro (individual learner) levels (Ramberg and Watkins, 2020, p. 90).

(See also ‘Meaningful participation’)

Remote education

Method of delivery, which involves teaching and learning activities where educators and learners are not physically present in one location at the same time. In this case, learning happens away from the physical site of an educational provider with educators and learners using different means to connect and engage with a programme, course or educational activity. … remote education is used as a broad term which … [comprises], among others, the possibility to organise and deliver teaching and learning activities at distance (e.g. by using radio, TV or electronic resources) or online (e.g. requiring learners to use a connected device) (European Commission, 2020, pp. 97–98).


Resilience is the ability to prepare for, work through, respond to and mitigate unforeseen challenges.

Challenges may damage individuals, institutions and communities, but they also create opportunities to rebuild from a stronger base, and even reach a higher level of operation. Resilience does not just mean survival and recovery; it means thriving in a new reality (Brende and Sternfels, 2022) and operating proactively rather than reactively.

The field of education must be sensitive to individual, community and societal challenges both within and outside the system. Here, resilience refers to the ability to find solutions to these challenges, adapting to new situations by organising, planning and implementing educational processes.

Vulnerability / vulnerable learners

According to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4, target 4.5 on inclusion and equity:

All people, irrespective of sex, age, race, colour, ethnicity, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property or birth, as well as persons with disabilities, migrants, indigenous peoples, and children and youth, especially those in vulnerable situations or other status, should have access to inclusive, equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities. Vulnerable groups that require particular attention and targeted strategies include persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, ethnic minorities and the poor (SDG 4 High-Level Steering Committee Secretariat, no date).

Vulnerabilities have a dynamic dimension and can vary by place (Ainscow, 2005). Vulnerabilities can refer to poverty, ethnicity, disability and remoteness.

‘… many types of vulnerability are not outwardly apparent … making it impossible to distinguish neatly between students with and without disabilities or special needs’ (UNESCO, 2020a, p. 66).

Many countries identify specific groups as vulnerable in constitutions, social inclusion legislation, education legislation or documents directly related to inclusive education. The group most identified is people with disabilities, but women and girls, rural or remote populations and the poor are also commonly recognized. Few countries link recognition of specific groups with a mandate to collect data on their inclusion in education, however (UNESCO, 2020a, p. 67).

‘Characteristics that expose individuals to risk do not affect everybody the same way. For instance, life at the intersections of disability with race, class, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity expression is more than the sum of each vulnerability’ (UNESCO, 2020a, p. 73).