Coronavirus: Distance learning increases dropout risk for vulnerable learners

Cedefop’s ambassadors for tackling early leaving from education and training call for further support to address the needs of learners at risk and ensure their equal access to quality distance learning.

The coronavirus pandemic disrupted the education and training of an entire generation of vocational education and training (VET) learners. Those already at risk – from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds, migrants and from ethnic minorities, learners with disabilities and special education needs – often find themselves out of school. With schools being closed, they risk falling further behind, while further disruption to their learning is imminent if distance learning is not ensured. At the same time, they are at increased risk of violence, abuse and neglect, as families and households are locked down.

Examples of initiatives from seven European countries in Cedefop’s new report show the efforts made to ensure that learning continues for all VET learners, as well as to support VET teachers and trainers who had to convert physical classrooms and working places into digital learning environments overnight.

According to the report, VET teachers and trainers face challenges such as no access to equipment and internet connection required to offer distance learning; lack of digital skills and competences to make efficient use of the platforms; poor experience in creating digital teaching content; no experience in e-learning and other distance learning pedagogies in VET, especially for teaching practical components; concerns over privacy issues, copyright and data protection.

The report also points out that learners at risk, not participating in distance education, disconnect for a longer period and may eventually drop out of their VET programme.

Prior to the pandemic, European countries had made significant progress in lowering the rates of early leaving from education and training, results which should be sustained in the post-coronavirus era. Cedefop’s VET toolkit for tackling early leaving has never been more important in supporting policy-makers and VET practitioners to prevent early leaving.

Cedefop will continue work in this field to support the European Commission, Member States and social partners in implementing the newly adopted Council Conclusions on European teachers and trainers for the future (European Council, 25 May 2020), recognising teachers and trainers as an indispensable driving force of education and training and acknowledging their commitment during the current crisis.

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