Brussels, 26th March 2021

European Parliament takes up ECSWE proposals
The Parliament resolution of 25 March 2021 calls for more research into the impact of digital technology on education and child development.

On 25th March 2021, the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment adopt­ed its Res­o­lu­tion on Shap­ing dig­i­tal edu­ca­tion pol­i­cy. As a stake­hold­er organ­i­sa­tion rep­re­sent­ing Stein­er Wal­dorf schools in Europe, ECSWE active­ly par­tic­i­pat­ed in the draft­ing stage of this report and pro­vid­ed MEPs with con­crete sug­ges­tions for amendments.

Fol­low­ing the votes of yes­ter­day, we are delight­ed to report that sev­er­al of our ideas are now reflect­ed in the final text. It might there­fore become an impor­tant resource for our mem­ber asso­ci­a­tions when nego­ti­at­ing with nation­al or region­al gov­ern­ments on dig­i­tal edu­ca­tion poli­cies. Some of the key demands towards pol­i­cy mak­ers can be sum­marised as follows:

Invest in research on the impact of digitalisation

MEPs high­light the need “to invest more in inter­dis­ci­pli­nary research to assess the long-term impacts of dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion on learn­ing” and the “var­i­ous impacts of dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies on the edu­ca­tion and devel­op­ment of chil­dren”. From our per­spec­tive, any ambi­tious digi­ti­sa­tion agen­da should be based on sol­id evi­dence of both, a pos­i­tive impact on the intend­ed learn­ing out­comes, and the absence of prob­lem­at­ic and unin­tend­ed side-effects.

Promote a development-oriented approach

MEPs fur­ther insist on intro­duc­ing dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies “in a learn­er-focused, age- appro­pri­ate and devel­op­ment-ori­ent­ed way” and high­light the impor­tance of “mas­ter­ing basic trans­ver­sal skills” as a “fun­da­men­tal pre­req­ui­site for the acqui­si­tion of dig­i­tal skills and com­pe­tences.” This links well with the holis­tic approach to ICT and media edu­ca­tion pro­mot­ed in Wal­dorf schools and needs to be fol­lowed up with con­crete action at the nation­al lev­el. Our mem­bers are open to fur­ther dis­cuss our tried and test­ed approach with pol­i­cy mak­ers and to show­case how our schools imple­ment it by means of a devel­op­ment-ori­ent­ed ICT and media curriculum.

Give pedagogical freedom and autonomy to teachers

Par­lia­ment fur­ther­more high­lights the need to give teach­ers the “free­dom to choose the best com­bi­na­tion of teach­ing meth­ods” and empow­er­ing them “through suf­fi­cient flex­i­bil­i­ty and auton­o­my.” The direct “teacher-stu­dent inter­ac­tion” dur­ing “in-per­son learn­ing” is fur­ther­more high­light­ed as “cru­cial to the well-being and devel­op­ment of stu­dents”. From a Wal­dorf per­spec­tive, ped­a­gog­i­cal free­dom and a per­son­al rela­tion­ship with stu­dents are key enabling fac­tors of qual­i­ty edu­ca­tion. Our mem­ber asso­ci­a­tions at the nation­al lev­el are open to dis­cuss with pol­i­cy mak­ers how to best imple­ment this with­in the giv­en nation­al framework.

Remaining challenges and the way forward

Even though the scope of the res­o­lu­tion was broad­ened and has become more bal­anced with the focus on age-appro­pri­ate media edu­ca­tion, its ambi­tious and sys­temic digi­ti­sa­tion agen­da remains in place. The most vis­i­ble evi­dence of this dynam­ic are Par­lia­men­t’s sup­port for the new bench­mark for mea­sur­ing the dig­i­tal com­pe­tence of 8th graders and its call for a vari­ety of mon­i­tor­ing tools and account­abil­i­ty mea­sures at nation­al level.

We will there­fore con­tin­ue to crit­i­cal­ly mon­i­tor the imple­men­ta­tion of the EU’s Dig­i­tal Edu­ca­tion Action Plan through its sev­en-year imple­men­ta­tion phase, and con­tin­ue to give our per­spec­tive on how it can be imple­ment­ed in a devel­op­ment-ori­ent­ed way, with respect for teacher’s auton­o­my and in the spir­it of ped­a­gog­i­cal freedom.

We there­fore wel­come the Euro­pean Parliament’s call for the involve­ment of stake­hold­ers “rep­re­sent­ing dif­fer­ent approach­es from inside and out­side main­stream edu­ca­tion” by means of the new Euro­pean Dig­i­tal Edu­ca­tion Hubs. This involve­ment will be of crit­i­cal impor­tance to best reflect the needs of the inde­pen­dent school sec­tor in this impor­tant debate.

A question? Please don’t hesitate to contact us!

Georg Jürgens