The Virtual School Landscape: Europe
Barry Phillips, Sero, UK
Summary of presentation
Barry gave a short overview of the VISCED project website and wiki, on which currently 45 European virtual schools are listed, who are located in over 16 European countries and some of which are not restricted to one country.
As the VISCED project focuses on virtual schools and colleges for the 14-21 age group, some networks, repositories, are mentioned in the country reports but are not considered as virtual schools per sé. In Europe enrolment varies between 25 and 1,500 students and on average 260-300 learners enrol to a virtual school, which is a clear difference with for instance the US virtual schools.
Another difference is that in Europe the motivation to provide virtual schooling is not primarily to address geographical isolation, but for instance to provide inclusive education for learners that are in hospital (there are initiatives for instance in Belgium and the Netherlands), for disengaged learners, or for expatriates. What is also apparent in Europe is the clear division between public schools, where the most funding is provided by the state, and private schools, where the parents and learners sponsor the schools through tuition fees. What is striking in Europe is that Finland is perhaps the only country that has virtual (secondary) schools for adult learners.
To conclude we can wonder if the existing legislative frameworks disadvantage virtual schooling? Barry states that in the recent past governments have spent millions on ICT in education initiatives, and now it seems they are reluctant to take ICT out of the school environment and encourage virtual schooling through policies.