Lockdown, digital inclusion or exclusion?

Since 16 March 2020, when all training centres, schools, colleges, universities and places open to the public were closed, training operators and those in charge of education have very quickly reorganised themselves to use the digital tool to disseminate courses, webinars and proposals of all kinds. David LOPEZ, EPALE France coordinator, gives a quick overview of what has changed since 16 March 2020 in France and the challenges ahead for digital education.


[Translation (French - English) : EPALE France]


This blog post was also published in the magazine Praça-Caixa de Mitos in Portugal and on the INFONET Facebook page.

  1. Formal education.

The initial idea was to maintain contact and ensure educational continuity.  I will not be talking about schools and the formal education system here. Teachers have had to maintain a relationship with their students to prevent them from “losing contact” with the programs. This situation revealed what everyone already knew. There is a divide between the various sectors of society. Disadvantaged rural areas or suburbs have trouble accessing digital technology (financial, cultural, housing space, internet coverage, training in the use of technology). The French Minister of National Education himself says that between 5 and 8% of students "have been lost". Unions and practitioners believe this number to be much higher.

  1. Vocational training and apprenticeship.

For the vocational training and apprenticeship sector, the French Ministry of Labour reacted the following week by creating a page on its national website…

The aim was to provide educational tools and resources for training and apprenticeship centres (for people who are unemployed, changing careers or undergoing initial or continuing vocational training). Three types of tools have been made available "free of charge", whereas before some of the websites came at a cost: Technical solutions for disseminating content and activities, conducting training and providing distance learning links, educational resources accessible to training organizations and resources for apprenticeship centres.

These proposals met the objectives of transforming face-to-face training into distance learning, postponing training that cannot be held at a distance, no longer physically receiving the public and limiting physical meetings and travel by employees of their companies.

  1. Popular education.

All associations working with young people or adults, whether cultural, in the general interest, for education or continuing training, have reacted very quickly to make information and tools available in their sector. Cultural associations have asked their members to create images, texts and podcasts. Others have published resources for keeping informed, responding. Making these resources free of charge was important in order to keep access as open as possible.

A few examples:……


This unprecedented situation raises several questions. We tend to act as if everyone is connected behind screens and with perfect mastery of the tools. Yet, we know that in these difficult periods when physical contact with the other is almost impossible, there will of course be cases of exclusion (territories, social classes, age differences).

The first question is: “How can we avoid excluding a major proportion of French people?” Access is one answer, but another is by providing training to master the tools and how they can be used.

This issue goes beyond the context of France alone. It concerns all European countries and even beyond.

The second question is related to the teaching methods developed. Since March 2020, the various organisations have been adapting content and methods to make the transition from face-to-face training to digital training. However, we will have to rethink the digital tools for training and support in a different way. We will have to think in terms of content (will it be the same as in the classroom?), in terms of methodology (duration of connections, interaction between learners and trainers), in terms of support (how to find someone to listen to any questions? Online? Offline?).


France, unlike other countries, is not ahead in digital learning, far from it. We are often constrained by a fairly standardized model of learning and training, focused on content and not on "learning how to learn". While the concepts of new forms of learning, whether from formal education, educational leisure or vocational training, are more than 150 years old in France, their practice is not widespread. There are some diverse experiences, ways of doing things and methodologies that have been put in place.

The lockdown due to the coronavirus may well promote progress in digital learning and training. But it must be done with inclusion in mind, so as not to create new exclusions: There were already areas abandoned by digital technology, and we should not have citizens abandoned and excluded from digital technology.

In my view, this means decompartmentalising the different sectors of education and training in order to learn from each other and create together.


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