Children in villages prone to digital inequalities limiting their right to education, study

Children in rural areas are prone to digital inequalities that limit their right to education. Lack of access to digital devices and limited internet access are the main obstacles to remote learning activities. The digital inequalities faced by students in rural areas affect both academic performance and the educational path of children, finds a study of public policies.

The study also proposes measures to improve the digital inclusion of children, such as digital literacy of all actors involved in the educational process, ensuring access to information technology and opening digital laboratories in schools.

Presenting the study called “PRO Digital inclusion in education for the digital citizens of tomorrow”, researcher Alina Bărbuță (Stupar) highlighted the importance of creating a strategy to develop the digitalization of the educational process. “The strategy must start with digital literacy, which involves, first and foremost, access to quality digital devices, training of teachers, students and their parents. We need a nationally systematized strategy for digital literacy. In addition, a mechanism for cooperation among educational institutions needs to be created”, she said.

According to Michelle Iliev, mentor of the “Public Development Policy” Program, the model of the Innovation Center “Class of the Future” is relevant to the digitization of the educational process. “The Center’s experience should be taken into account in the new strategy as a strong point in which several solutions have already been tested. For example, after the robotics project was implemented five years ago, we now have competitions where our students occupy podiums around world. This shows a level of digital competence, already applied on the practical side and how it influences the professions that students will pursue”.

Increased attention should also be paid to digital equipment for the educational process. In this regard, Michelle Iliev pointed out that during the pandemic, some computers were donated that were sometimes not useful to the educational process. “We need models that are adapted for the educational process, that have pre-installed certain specialized software for the educational process, which are connected in series where the teacher can interact with each student remotely. There are certain tools that should be reviewed and included in a series of recommendations from the Ministry of Education and Research to schools. In addition, a separate budget must be allocated each year”, she said.

Tatiana Alexeev, manager of the “Tekwill in Every School” project, also stressed the need to implement information technology in rural schools, noting that educational digitization offers more opportunities for students. “We put a lot of emphasis on creating opportunities not only in cities and municipalities, but also in rural areas, because we know that one of the reasons why young people choose to leave villages is the lack of opportunities. We try to bring them as close to the students as possible through the ‘digital labs’ initiative and through the digital resources we have developed”, said the project manager.

Asked about the support offered government to the digital development program, MP Marcela Adam (PAS) announced that lawmakers discussed this issue with the Ministry of Education and Research. “We working to develop a new education strategy. It is a problem not only for the school, it is a problem for the entire society. Without digital skills today we cannot fully integrate and cannot be active members of a developed society”, the official stated.

The “Public policies for development” project is implemented by the Institute for European Policies and Reforms, in cooperation and with the financial support of the Soros Foundation Moldova.

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