On May 3, 2020, Monica Anisie, the Romanian Minister of Education and Research, claimed in a TV interview at Digi24 that approximately 250,000 pre-university Romanian students do not have access to technology, and as a result, they are not able to attend the online courses during the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine. This statement is mostly false, as the number seems to be higher.
Monica Anisie is currently the Minister of Education, member of the Orban Government, representing the National Liberal Party. This Government was voted by the Parliament on November 4, 2019, and dismissed three months later, by censure motion, but due to the emergency caused by the spread of the coronavirus, it was reinvested. Starting from March 11, 2020, the Romanian Ministry of Education and Research decided to suspend the courses in the pre-university system, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The initially established period was of two weeks, but after some deadline extensions, the face-to-face courses were finally suspended for the rest of the semester, and the courses were to be held online. Furthermore, on April 22, the 12th article of the Order of the Minister of Education 4135 / 21.04.2020 made the attendance at these classes mandatory.
Similar decisions have been made in most states worldwide, impacting over 60 percent of students, as the UNESCO Institute for Statistics study reveals.
The Romanian educational situation during COVID-19 pandemic
Even though 80% of Romanian households have internet access, almost half of the population lives in a rural area, and 15% of the citizens live in extreme poverty, according to official reports. Therefore, after switching to online courses, a problem arose: how many pupils can attend the classes and how many of them are actually deprived of education, due to the lack of technology?
Monica Anisie`s claim, that 250,000 pupils do not have the infrastructure, is mostly false, because, based on the data available so far, the number is higher. Even though she said that hers is an approximation, the difference is significant. In April 2020, the Romanian Institute for Evaluation and Strategy (IRES) managed to conduct a study entitled School during the state of emergency – students` access to online education in Romania, applied on a national representative sample, with a margin of error of + 2,5%. According to the analysis, one out of three pre-university students did not own, for instance, a webcam and a microphone. There are approximately 2,8 million pre-university students registered in the 2019-2020 academic year, which would mean that 9% of them did not have access to technology, as specified by Monica Anisie. But according to the survey conducted by IRES, the number is three times higher, which means 840,000 students are in this situation (30% of the total). These students do not have access to a functional device (smartphone, PC, laptop, etc.)
Moreover, 10% of pupils living in urban areas and 19% of pupils living in rural areas claim that the Internet connection in their home is not strong enough to support the online courses.
Even though it is not applied on a representative sample, a survey conducted by UNICEF shows similar results: 71% of the respondents think that students’ access to devices for connecting to digital education is deficient and for 60% of them the Internet access is limited.
Both studies were already published when Monica Anisie made the statement. Moreover, in the same interview, the minister said that “tomorrow (May 5), at 9 AM, we will have a video conference and we will present these figures publicly”. According to the Ministry’s website, these numbers have not been released. At the same time, Anisie said that she will ask the County School Inspectorates for solutions until June 12, 2020, which have not been released, nor mentioned, at the moment this article was published.
Taking into account all the data, the statement made by the Romanian Minister of Education and Research, Monica Anisie, that approximately 250,000 students do not have access to technology, is mostly false. She did not provide concrete data, but only an estimated number, which is the reason her claim cannot be considered entirely false. At the same time, according to the IRES representative survey, the number is significantly higher than what she initially stated.
RESEARCH | ARTICLE © Iulia Moraru and Norbert Nemeș, Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj, Romania
Leave your comments, thoughts and suggestions in the box below. Take note: your response is moderated.