AGE responds to EU consultation on digital education: It is more urgent than ever to reach out to older persons

Older persons are often neither reached nor targeted by digital education initiatives. In the context of the pandemic that showed digital inclusion is more important than ever to fight loneliness and isolation and to fully participate in society, this must be changed! This is what we pointed out in our response to a consultation of the European Commission on an update of the Digital Education Action Plan.

IT adult classes The existing Action plan of 2018 aimed to make use of technology for teaching and learning, developing digital competencies and skills and improving education through data analysis and foresight. The revision of the Action Plan aims to learn from the COVID-19 pandemic to develop better digital education systems in terms of technology and content, and improving digital skills.

In our contribution, we points out that the existing action plan and its revision mainly target at providers of initial education and training, which are mostly working with younger persons. Adult education and non-formal education initiatives, which are more likely to reach older persons, have been left out from the questions and announcements. In doing this, the Plan may not reach people who are the most digitally excluded, in a context where only 33% of the population (and 8% of persons between 65 and 74) have more than basic digital skills.

Furthermore, older learners even face difficulties in accessing adult education opportunities as these are often not tailored to their learning needs, not fully accessible, and concentrated in areas and organisations where there are fewer older persons. These arguments build on AGE’s work on the right to education and life-long learning concerning older persons, from the international reflection on the human rights of ageing persons last year and the results of a review on digital literacy of older persons as part of the research project Digitol.

To be fully inclusive, the digital education action plan should also seek to:

  • improve the accessibility of online learning content;
  • improve the ‘physical’ accessibility of digital devices;
  • encourage digital training attendance in places where older persons are and live, such as in long-term care services or public libraries;
  • fully embrace opportunities of non-formal and informal learning.

AGE lists a number of good practices that show that inclusive initiatives exist and just need support to be upscaled and generalised.

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