Education Minister hopes that distance learning will continue post corona

The Flemish Education Minister Ben Weyts (nationalist) has told VRT News that if it is up to him some form of distance learning will remain in place even after a vaccine or medicine is found for the novel coronavirus. Speaking on VRT Radio 1’s morning news and current affairs programme ‘De ochtend’, Mr Weyts said that the half day of distance learning that will be provided once pupils return to school for the autumn term should become a permanent fixture even after the battle against the novel coronavirus has been won. 

Under the colour code alert system that will be in force in schools from September, measures will be taken depending of the intensity of the coronavirus epidemic at any given time. In September it is likely that Code Yellow will be in force which means that secondary school pupils will be taught through distance learning on Wednesday mornings (there are no lessons in Belgian schools on Wednesday afternoons).

Like the pre-teaching given to pupils in recent months this will require children to have access to a laptop for their sole use while the distance learning lessons are being taught.

Mr Weyts told ‘De ochtend’, “The virologists hope that this will serve to lower the pressure as it will mean one day with fewer contacts, less traffic and less chance of infection”.

The Education Minister added that in truth he is a fan of distance learning and that he believes that we should seize the opportunity it provides to offer education that is more “made to measure” to suit the needs of individual pupils. 

35 million euro for laptops and IT

Mr Weyts went on to say that pupils react differently to distance learning via the computer in their homes. “Some are stimulated, challenged and they can immerse themselves deeper in the material that they are being taught instead of having to stand still. On the other hand there are those that you can give an extra push to help them on their way. It really is made-to-measure education.

The Flemish Government has set aside 35 million euro to provide laptops to pupils that need them and for programmes to facilitate distance learning.

Mr Weyts recognises that distance learning is not always easy for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

"We had already started the laptop project for them, but the need is even greater. Schools that have relatively many children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds will be given a proportionally large share of the 35 million euro”, the Education Minister said.