Digisprong ('Digital leap')
It is the ambition of the Flemish Ministry of Education and Training to strengthen the digital competences of all learners, from primary school children to adults. A strong Flemish e-inclusion policy ensures attention is to vulnerable target groups. The measures and actions to facilitate distance learning are framed within the Flemish recovery plan and the pursuit of digital inclusion.
Efforts are being made on 5 fronts for an accelerated digitisation policy: (1) a digital friendly government, (2) ICT infrastructure, (3) ICT vision and school policy, (4) digital learning resources and (5) ICT skills. Up-to-date ICT infrastructure and the development of an ICT vision and policy for schools are basic conditions for achieving this digital acceleration. In order to further develop ICT skills among teachers and in school teams in compulsory and adult education, existing initiatives will be reinforced and IT bootcamps for teachers and ICT coordinators will be organised.
The digital transformation of Flemish education is a complex process. A knowledge and advice centre will be set up to coordinate and support the many different actions and projects in the field of education from a single framework. The creation of the position of ICT coordinator is planned for September 2021.
A new STEM Action Plan
To encourage careers in mathematics, science, engineering and technology, the Flemish Government has drawn up a STEM Action Plan for the period 2012-2020. The Flemish labour market needs more people with a STEM profile and this demand will only increase with increasing digitalisation and technologisation. In the framework of this action plan, the STEM monitor was developed which provides insights into the evolution of relevant STEM indicators and data of pupils in STEM-related courses in secondary education, adult education and higher education. The most recently published STEM Monitor is the 2020 edition (with data from 2018-2019), which can be consulted here: https://onderwijs.vlaanderen.be/sites/default/files/atoms/files/STEM-mon.... (in Dutch). It is also the last monitor issued under the current Action Plan. In 2021, the new STEM Action Plan 2020-2030 will be submitted to the Flemish Government for approval.
Pandemic levels or phases
In the pandemic scenarios, 4 pandemic levels or phases can be distinguished:
A vaccine is available and/or there is group immunity. All contacts can take place. Hand hygiene (before eating and after visiting the toilet) remains necessary.
|There is limited transmission of infections, and increased vigilance is called for. Contacts between possible spreaders are limited. Necessary contacts may continue, subject to applicable safety measures.|
|There is a systematic transmission of infections in society. There are isolated or isolated cluster outbreaks. Contacts between potential spreaders are limited to the essential and take place in a context where risk factors have been brought under control as much as possible.|
There are widespread infections in society and there are new outbreaks and clusters. Contacts between potential spreaders must be avoided as much as possible.
Primary and secondary education
The baseline of the Flemish measures is guaranteeing each child's right to education. Ideally, this means pupils attend face-to-face education. A digital offer is an excellent addition, but real distance learning is only an option when safety regulations require it.
With regards to the concept of 'bubble', the classroom counts as the contact bubble. Where and when it is required to reduce the contact bubbles (only applicable to secondary education), the classroom groups will be halved, also reducing the number of days pupils attend school.
Concrete safety measures are linked to each pandemic level (see above). A safety plan has been drawn up for each pandemic level. The roadmaps are a guide to the pandemic scenarios and clarify obligations, but do not impose additional ones, and provide additional recommendation that can support a local risk analysis.
The field of education and the education ministers of the various communities decided to start full education (mainstram and special needs ECE, primary, full-time and part-time secondary, higher, adult and part-time art education) in pandemic phase yellow with great vigilance. Each educational institution draws up a local risk analysis, on the basis of which the conditions under which it can be fully or partially open are determined.
Only in municipalities where the pandemic situation is acute can a switch be made to phase orange. On the basis of the data supplied by Celeval/RAG, the existing local crisis cell, supplemented by representative representatives of education, CLB and the Agency for Care and Health, is convened. They communicate the proposed decision to the Minister of Education. The Minister of Education may approve or reject the proposed decision.
Quarantine may be imposed depending on the safety of teaching staff, pupils and parents. Distance learning shall be provided for class groups that have to go into quarantine.
In view of advancing scientific knowledge and findings on the role of children in the spread of the virus and their vulnerability, primary education is in principle - with a few exceptions - treated on an equal footing. The most important age bracket is at the age of 12. Above this age, the risk of spread and vulnerability increases for both pupils and teachers, and other safety requirements also apply.
In order to manage the impact of the pandemic, research projects that will lead to didactic tools and support for secondary schools that choose to offer part of the lessons through distance learning will be set up next year. A parallel study focusing on the organisation of distance learning for illiterate adults and NT2 students will also be launched.
The corona crisis is also causing additional needs in the field of pupil guidance. These needs are translated into an action plan, in which actions on early school leaving, well-being and health are bundled. The action plan will help to strengthen and support pupils and education.
Part-time art education
For part-time art education (dko), the age of the learner is decisive on what rules (of compulsory education or adult education) needs to be applied. If the dko's accredited sites are located on the campus of a primary or secondary school, the prevention advisor makes a risk analysis for the organisation of the alternating moments (e.g. avoidance of gatherings, hygiene measures) so that the learning activities of both levels of education can take place.
For students in primary adult education (CBE) and secondary adult education (CVO), education is often a necessity from both an economic and a social perspective. If recognised adult education providers share classrooms with other levels of education or other services, the prevention advisor makes a risk analysis for the organisation of the simultaneous teaching moments and the alternating moments (e.g. avoiding gatherings, hygiene measures) so that the learning activities of both can take place.
As regards adult education institutions, the impact of COVID-19 on the cvo, cbe and dko will be monitored and the existing compensation scheme for the transition from the old to the new funding system for adult education will be adjusted by the 2021 budget review.
As part of the relaunch, maximum efforts will be made to consult with the education sector in order to set up a major communication campaign that will make the adult education offer as widely known as possible. Indeed, as a result of the crisis, there will be a greater need for training for the unemployed and more people wanting to retrain. The Flemish education administration, in cooperation with the policy domains of Work and Social Economy and Chancellery and Foreign Affairs, is investigating the possibilities of creating a one-stop shop for guidance and counselling towards lifelong learning. Particularly for vulnerable groups, it is important to provide tailored guidance and support when determining their learning needs, shaping their learning needs and continuing their learning pathway.
The Flemish universities and university colleges will work with different pandemic levels, just like the schools of compulsory education. Only at the green level will the working of the institution be entirely as it was in the pre-corona era. In level yellow, level orange and level red, higher education will be hybrid: on campus if possible, online when needed. The aim is to achieve a feasible balance between distance learning and physical educational activities on campus or in the professional field. Local risk analyses are carried out everywhere. In all scenarios, all institutions respect the applicable safety regulations regarding hand hygiene, healthy distance, mask wearing, disinfection, ventilation and suchlike. They also keep their finger on the pulse of advancing scientific insights.
The entrance exams for doctors and dentists will also take place digitally in 2021. These will be organised digitally and decentrally for the first time in 2020, thus achieving a drastic and accelerated turnaround of this large-scale examination.
Lifelong Learning Partnership
The Flemish government wants to stimulate a culture of lifelong learning. That is why, in the autumn of 2020, the policy areas Work, Education and Economy set up a Lifelong Learning Partnership. The main task of the Partnership is to realise and monitor the various tasks and challenges within the framework of a forward-looking policy for lifelong learning, and this across the various policy domains.
In order to create the necessary framework conditions for lifelong learning, measures and incentives must be taken on a structural level, e.g. in the areas of infrastructure and equipment. In addition to the focus on individual responsibility, a lifelong learning policy must also pay attention to disadvantaged groups. The Lifelong Learning Partnership therefore forms the bridge between training providers, labour market actors, technology partners and innovators through the propagation of a common vision. To carry out its tasks, the Lifelong Learning Partnership can draw on existing and new innovative partnerships.
IT policy plan
he importance of the digitisation of education was highlighted by corona-crisis. It is the ambition of the Flemish Ministry of Education and Training to strengthen the digital competences of all learners. Based on a strong Flemish e-inclusion policy, special attention is also paid to vulnerable target groups. The measures and actions to facilitate distance learning are framed within the recovery plan and the pursuit of digital inclusion.
Five fronts are being deployed for an accelerated digitisation policy: (1) digital government, (2) ICT infrastructure, (3) ICT vision and school policy, (4) digital learning resources and (5) ICT skills. A strong ICT infrastructure and the development of an ICT vision and policy of schools are basic prerequisites for a digital acceleration and development of an ICT vision and policy of schools. In order to further develop ICT skills among teachers and in school teams in compulsory and adult education, existing initiatives will be strengthened and IT boot camps for teachers and ICT coordinators will be organised.
The digital transformation of Flemish education is a complex process. In order to coordinate and support the many different actions and projects in the field of education from the same framework, a knowledge and advice centre will be set up.