Coronavirus school and university closures have affected more than 90% of the global student population in 194 countries.
Governments have had to react quickly and set up remote learning, with many adopting online learning programmes. The crisis has thus exposed the digital divide both between and within countries as well as the global need for digital transformation of education infrastructure. The European Investment Bank (EIB) readily supported Serbia with this, and the Bank’s help means that all schools in Serbia will be digital by the end of 2021.
When Serbia went into lockdown in March 2020, lessons moved from classrooms to television sets. The Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development began broadcasting educational content for elementary and high school students on Serbia’s national public television channels.
Like many other countries, Serbia had to think on its feet and adapt to the “new normal” by producing specialised content for multiple grades. However, Serbia had been preparing their digital education content for the last few years as the Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development started implementation of their Connected Schools project in 2019, with a total estimated cost of €111 million. Before this project, there were 2,000 digitally equipped classroom across Serbia but in 2019 the number rose to over 10,000. According to Eurostat, the level of individual digital skills in Serbia increased from 32% in 2015 to 46% in 2019.
In November last year, the EIB agreed to back this project with a €65 million loan. The project is now modernising primary and secondary schools in Serbia with new digital equipment and connectivity. The EIB investment will thus support Serbia’s national education strategy and contribute to economic and productivity growth, youth employability and the development of the country’s capacity for innovation.
“The COVID-19 pandemic and social restrictions imposed caused severe disruption in educational systems and processes. These unprecedented circumstances showed that better digital infrastructure improves the school’s efficiency in case of emergencies,” says Isabelle Stoffel, the senior EIB loan officer who worked on the deal.
Milan Dobrijević heads the digital agenda department within the Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications of Serbia and has been working on the project since its inception. “By the end of next year, more than 1,800 larger schools will be fully covered with high-speed wireless internet access, while the remaining remote ones will be connected using mobile broadband units,” he says.
Besides the digital infrastructure, the project is investing in nation-wide teacher training. In total, around 50,000 teachers from all over the country will improve their digital skills through this training. Starting from this school year, computer science will also become compulsory for first graders, while programming will be introduced in the third grade.
About the EIB
The European Investment Bank is the lending arm of the European Union. The EIB is the biggest multilateral financial institution in the world and one of the largest providers of climate finance, investing in a sustainable future for all.
This is an adaptation of an article published by the European Investment Bank. Read the original article
Photo credits: European Investment Bank