Education and culture are sources of intellectual renewal and human growth. Access to education and exposure to culture help people to acquire knowledge, a critical mind and a broader understanding of the world, to interact with others, to have a voice and to define their role in society.
Both sectors have been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since March 2020 nurseries, primary schools, high schools and universities have been closed across Europe, many of them are just reopening and some of them will not reopen before September. A mixed solution of limited physical presence and distance learning will most likely be the norm for the next school year. Lessons must be drawn from the lockdown period to avoid that inequalities in access to education do not deepen with time. Investments in technical equipment, teacher training and adequate assistance to pupils and their families will be crucial.
Due to physical distancing, lockdown and the halt of tourism, most cultural institutions have been forced to close. The economic losses are substantial. For instance, European museums show an average drop of 80% in their revenues. Smaller independent cultural institutions are particularly at risk of disappearing if left without any public support. Seven million artists and cultural professionals in Europe are under threat to lose jobs due to the precariousness of the situation.
Education and culture are integral parts of the democratic process and stability in Europe. The Parliamentary Assembly should therefore call on the member States to ensure that they both remain a political priority during and well after the COVID-19 pandemic. The year 2020 is a turning point and perhaps an opportunity to develop new models to ensure a viable and sustainable functioning of education and culture sectors in the future.