The Law on Pre-university Education (LPE) no. 198/2023 includes in Chapter IX on the Leadership of the national education system, a section dedicated to the Digital transformations in the pre-university education. The section provides for the general regulatory framework and in this context, it also refers to “digital technology”, ”digitalization of processes”, “strategic (digital education) platforms”, “the minimal IT standard”, ”the schooling integrated management system”, defined as a set of computing, communications and cyber security resources based on "cloud computing" technology, interconnected with public and/or private "clouds" at service provision level, “the electronic grade book”. In addition, the LPE no. 198/2023 provides for the setting up of a digital maturity monitoring mechanism for the pre-university education, defined as a system for the assessment, monitoring and the improvement of the digital transformations in relation to the software and hardware infrastructure available/ accessible in each pre-university education unit, as well as in relation to the pupils’ and teachers’ digital competency level.
In addition, the LPE no. 198/2023 includes the following specific terms: “digital competency”, “digital competences”, "online educational resources“, “innovative technologies”, “open educational resources”, “digital learning resources”, “emergent technologies”, “online” and “hybrid” teaching, learning and assessment.
Constitution and laws: Tthe 1991 Constitution (amended in 2003) affirms the right to education and establishes the general framework provisions for the field of education(Article 32).
The LPE no. 198/2023 which will enter into force as of 2 September 2023, addresses the issue of Digital transformations in the pre-university education (Section 4 of Chapter IX). The digital transformations foreseen will be detailed in the National Strategy for the digitalization of education and the development of digital competences among the educational community, to be adopted by government decision in 12 months’ time as from the date of entry into force of the LPE no. 198/2023.
In addition, the law provides for the establishment of the Executive Unit for Technical Support, Maintenance and Assistance for Digitalization (Article 132), whose role is mentioned in Section 3.1 and provides for the Schooling integrated management system (Article 133) .
The LPE no. 198/2023 also provides for development of pupils’ STEM and digital competencies (Article 91), the development of the teaching staff’s digital competencies as a prerequisite for employment (Article 181) and as a competency field to futher develop within in-service training (Article 187), the assessment of pupils’ digital competences at the Baccalaureate national exam (Article 102), the administration of fully standardized national assessments and exams in digital formats as of the 2027-2028 school year (Article 248)., the use of online educational resources, innovative technologies in the teaching, learning and assessment process (Article 85), the use of open educational resources to improve the quality of educational process (Article 93), the use of assisti ve technologies in special education (Article 69), the digitalization of institutional processes as an institutional capacity criterion in the context of quality assurance in education (Article 233).
For the provisions established by the Law of National Education no. 1/2011 (NLE), the primary legislative framework on education in Romania, which will be abrogated with effect from 2 September 2023 by the newly adopted laws on education (the Law on Pre-university Education no. 198/2023 and the Law on Higher Education no. 199/2023), see Sections 2.2.2 and 2.3.1.
Policies, plans and strategies: The Country Project "Educated Romania", which outlines the strategic framework for education policies up to 2030 and which guided the development of the new laws on education, dedicates a chapter to Digitalization, providing for the objectives and measures in the field. In this respect, the objectives cover the development of pupils’ and students’ digital competences, the initial and continuous teacher training for digital education, the development of digital competences among auxiliary and non-teaching stuff in education, the development of a digital ecosystem in education to reduce disparities, touching upon a number of priorities, from ensuring connectivity, the necessary infrastructure and equipment, the development of a national integrated platform with educational resources to the provision of subsidies for pupils and students etc.
These policy objectives will be implemented in correlation with the reforms and their associated investments included in the education component of Romania’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP), which target different aspects of the digital transformations in education. It is to be noted that, while certain aspects of digitalization (such as the provision of equipment and the equipment of classrooms, computer labs and other school laboratories) are included in several reforms, the NRRP includes a standalone reform for digitalization, that is, the Reform on the adoption of a legislative framework for the digitalization of education, with the following subordinated investments:
1. A training programme for teachers at the workplace for developing advanced knowledge on the use of new technologies in education;
2. The provision of infrastructure, equipment and digital resources in educational units, especially those situated in disadvantaged areas;
3. The creation of the Online School, which will ensure a digital ecosystem by the provision and development of educational content (digital textbooks, open educational resources) and the development of a platform for the evaluation of pupils’ competences;
4. The digitalization of universities and their preparation for the digital professions of the future.
Digital competency frameworks: The reference framework for the development of teachers’ digital competences is the European Commission’s Digital Competence Framework for Educators (DigCompEdu), while the Digital Competence Framework for Citizens (DigComp) is being used in an adapted manner to develop the pupils’ digital competences profile.
In line with this approach, Romania has adopted its digital competences framework of the educational professional (by Order no. 4150/2022), presented in Section 2.3
Changes occurred as a result of COVID-19: As of March 11th, all in-person activities in pre-university level schools were suspended.
The disruption of the educational process and the shift to educational activities delivered by means of technology and the use of Internet as a result of COVID-19 led to several legislative changes to the LNE no. 1/ 2011 and the issuance of secondary legislation to ensure the necessary conditions for the continuity of education, detailed in Section 2.2.2.
The lessons learnt from the pandemic led to an acceleration of the process of digitalization of education, giving due attention to all its components: connectivity, infrastructure, devices and equipment, development of digital competences of pupils, teachers, non-teaching staff, the development of educational platforms, including for online teaching and assessment, the creation of digital content and open educational resources etc. As a consequence both the national policies framework in the field of education, as well as the National Recovery and Resilience Plan provide for ambitious and comprehensive objectives and measures for the digitalization of education and the enhancement of the education system’s resilience to situations that limit or disrupt the face to face teaching and learning process. In addition, the provision of online/hybrid education and the digital transformations in educations have been included in the LPE no. 198/2023.
2.2.1. Technology infrastructure and digital capacity of schools
Electricity: The legal framework providing for the access to electricity is regulated by the Law no. 123/2012 of electricity and natural gas, and the Romanian Energy Regulatory Authority in the field of Energy. is the competent entity.
The issue of energy efficiency of buildings in the education system is approached in the NRRP, where as a general rule, new buildings, as well as old building under renovation need to comply with energy efficiency requirements. Moreover, one of the reforms in education implemented through the PRRN targets the updating of the legislative framework to ensure ecological design, construction and equipment standards in pre-university education, through the development of the regulatory framework for the design, operation and monitoring of buildings with near-zero energy consumption and the transition of existing buildings to energy performance levels closest to NZEB requirements as possible.
Internet connectivity: The Government Emergency Ordinance no. 111/2011 on electronic communications establishes the general framework for the provision of electronic communications services in Romania and aims to contribute to the promotion of connectivity and access to very large networks capacity. Article 79 provides that the connection to the public electronic communication network, ensured by at least one network and services provider, will ensure end users the possibility to carryout (…) data communications at a proper transfer speed to allow for a functional access to the Internet, considering prevailing technologies used by the majority of subscribers and technological feasibility. In addition, Law no. 175/2022 established certain measures that public authorities may implement in order to ensure the access to fixed broadband internet services for natural persons.
At general policy level, the Digital transformation component of the NRRP includes the Reform on the transition towards reaching the EU 2025 connectivity objectives and the stimulation of private investments for the development of very high capacity networks, which aims to facilitate constructions and investments in telecommunications networks, the accelerated large scale introduction of 5G networks at national level and white areas’ broadband coverage (rural, remote and bordering areas, disadvantaged residential areas, etc.).
In the field of education, the Romanian Education Network (RoEduNet) is a national network that ensures internet access to the education institutions connected to it, as well as equal and free access to all of the network’s resources for basic services. All activities carried out through the network must comply with the relevant national and international legislation. RoEduNet is managed by the Agency for the Administration of the National Computer Network for Education and Research, under the coordination of the Ministry of Education, who is a member of the Pan- European Research and Educatoin Network (GEANT consortium), the network that interconnects all networks for research and education in the EU member countries.
The “Educated Romania” Project targets the creation of a education and training digital ecosystem capable of reducing existing disparities. One essential component addressed by the measures foreseen refers to the provision of reliable, broadband, high-speed internet in schools. In addition, financial support for pupils from disadvantaged social backgrounds is envisaged to facilitate Internet access.
In addition, the issue of connectivity is addressed through national large-scale projects, which operationalize the Ministry of Education’s policies regarding the use of technology and ICT in education. A relevant project in this respect is the Integrated National Platform - Wireless Campus project, providing Wi-Fi infrastructure in schools.
Computers and devices: The LPE no.198/2023 provides that the Ministry of Education, through the Pre-university Education Directorates functioning at county level and in the capital, ensures the infrastructure and the devices needed by pupils and teachers to access the learning digital resources in the classroom (Article 93).
At policy level, in addition to ensuring connectivity, the objective targeting the creation of a education and training digital ecosystem, foresees measures that aim to equip classrooms,computer labs and other learning spaces in schools, as well as non-formal educational institutions belonging to the education system with the necessary hardware and software equipment, supporting, pupils and students from disadvantaged social backgrounds to purchase adequate devices, including internet connection and to develop education units’ capacity to ensure hybrid teaching and learning, when face to face teaching is not possible. As already mentioned in Section 2.1, these objectives are being implemented at system’s level through the reforms and investments, provided by the NRRP for the education component, particularly the one on digitalization.
2.2.2. Technology and learning environments
Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, the LNE no. 1/ 2011 provided the establishment of the Virtual School Library and the E-learning School Platform, containing digital resources to be used by the educational units to assist pupils during and after the school program or pupils unable to attend school temporary due to health issues.
In addition, the Ministry of Education has been implementing the National Program Euro 200 on a yearly basis since 2004, through which disadvantaged pupils and students receive a financial support for purchasing a personal computer. In the context of COVID19, the implementation of the Program proved even more relevant.
With the onset of COVID-19 and the ensuing disruptions in education, one immediate response was the launch of the educational TV programme TeleScoala, consisting in the broadcast of video lessons for pupils in secondary education to help them prepare for the national exams. The Program has been broadcasted from March 2020.
The Instruction for the creation and/ or the strengthening of the pre-university education system’s capacity through online learning approved by Order no 4135/ 2020, provided for the operationalization of the digital portal Digital on educred.ro centralizing e-learning platforms and online learning resources validated or recommended by the Ministry of Education. It also established the conduct of analyses on educational units’ capacity, as well as teachers’ and pupils’ possibilities to support, deliver and have access to online teaching and learning (level of connectivity, equipment and access to learning platforms) and provided for measures to ensure the training and developments of teachers’ digital competences.
Various online tools for teaching and learning were made use of, such as Google Classroom, Zoom, Microsoft and to prepare teachers for the use of these tools, as well as to enhance their digital competency, a particular emphasis was placed on providing teachers with support and training oportunities (especially, through webinars and online training sessions). In addition, schools received technical support and guidance from experts. A substantial contribution to this measures was ensured with the help of the Relevant Curriculum, Open Education for All (CRED), a large scale project with a systemic teacher training programme and a component dedicated to the deveopment of OERs.
The provision of electronic equipment and Internet connection was achieved through a series of national programs and measures. For example, in 2020, the national program Home School (GD no 370/2020) allowed for the acquisition of electronic devices with internet connection to equip state pre-university education units. Similarly, the purchase of electronic devices, including coverage internet cost, where applicable, was ensured through the GEO no.144/2020, the national program Education in a safe environment (GD no 756/2020), or by allocating funds within existing national level projects (i.e. The Romanian Secondary Education (ROSE) Project).
A memorandum initiated by the Ministry of Education ensured internet connection to disadvantaged state pre-university education units in Romania through the voluntary support program, with the contribution of electronic communications operators and industry in Romania.
At legislative level, the LNE no. 1/ 2011 was supplemented in order to allow for the provision of online education in case of the establishment of a state of emergency or siege (Article 140). In addition, the Ministry of Education became responsible for the provision of devices (laptop or tablet with internet connection) to pupils and teachers to participate in e-learning activities (Article 94), as well as for the necessary infrastructure (devices and internet access) for the use of the Virtual School Library and the School e-learning Platform (Article 170).
Based on the provisions of the GEO no. 141/2020 and the NLE no 1/2011 with the subsequent amendments and supplements, secondary legislation was issued to allow for the delivery of remote and online education, such as the Framework methodology regarding the conduct of teaching activities through technology and the Internet, as well as for the processing of personal data, approved by the Order no. 5.545/2020.
Referring to the new legislative framework in education, the LPE no 198/2023 provide for the use and development of strategic platforms that must comply with the minimal IT standard for the development, management and interoperability of platforms for processes and education data management in pre-university education (Article 132). In addition, the digital educational platforms that fulfil the minimal qualitative, technical and security criteria are approved by order of the ministry of education. The Virtual School Library, operationalized through the EduLib platform, which includes the digital texbooks platform Manuale and the E-learning school plarform “Learning in Romania”, are mentioned in the LPE no 198/2023 as resources available for the education system (Article 62).
In continuation to the provisions of the LNE no. 1/2011, the LPE no. 198/2023 provides that the national curriculum for primary, lower and secondary education focuses on the following key skills that determine the pupil's training profile: competencies in the field of mathematics, science, technology and engineering (STEM) and digital competency , including related to safety on the internet and cybersecurity (Article 91). In addition, the national baccalaureate exam includes a digital skills assessment test, whose result “is expressed by the level of competence, in relation to the recognized European standards in the field"( Article 102).
The “Educated Romania” Project provides for the development of pupils’ and students’ digital competences, through the elaboration of a pupils’/ students’ competences profile, designed in terms of knowledge, skills and attitudes and by level of competence, correlated with the European Commission’s Digital Competence Framework for Citizen and other European and national reference documents. In addition, the Project sets the following related objectives: ensuring the highest possible percentage of digital literacy among pupils and students, the development of assessment and certification mechanisms of pupils and students’ digital competences, the support of coding and robotics skills development, through national coding and robotics competitions and dedicated clubs within education units.
A comprehensive policy on the promotion of STEAM education in the pre-university education is provided in the “Educated Romania” Project. The foreseen objectives cover all the relevant components, in terms of curriculum teaching methods, training and support of teachers, necessary infrastructure, technology and resources, enabling school management and organization culture, relevant initiatives and partnerships.
In line with the current curricular polices, the disciplines pupils study in primary and secondary education are grouped into curricular areas and consequently, STEM related disciplines are included in the following curricular areas: Mathematics and Natural Sciences and Technologies, respectively. In lower secondry education, pupils study Technological education and practical applications and Informatics and ICT, as core subjects. In upper secondary education, ICT is a core subject for all pupils, while Informatics is a core subject only for pupils at STEM specializations.
Romania is aligned to the European Education Area strategic framework, which sets clear benchmarks to be attained by the EU member states by 2030. One of the targets set in this context provides that by 2030, less than 15% of eight-graders should be low-achievers in computer and information literacy. This target has also been assumed at national level as part of the implementation of the “Educated Romania” Project, along with a target regarding teachers’ competences, which provides that all teachers have basic digital competences by 2030, including teaching through digital tools.
The Digital Competences Framework of the professional in education (adopted by Order no. 4150/2022) defines 22 key digital competences, grouped in 6 domains and is addressed to teachers of all educational levels, from preschool education to higher education and adult education, VET teachers and special education teachers. Based on the acquisition of these competences, which can be developed progressively, teachers should be able to use digital technologies in their daily professional interactions and as a mean to pursue professional development, use digital technologies in the teaching and learning process, use, create and share digital resources, use digital technologies to improve assessment, harness the potential of digital technologies to develop student-centred teaching and learning strategies and develop the necessary pedagogical competences to facilitate the development of learners ‘digital competences.
The LPE no. 198/2023 establishes the general framework and provisions on the initial and in-service teacher training and in this respect, the acquisition and development of digital competences for teaching and learning are part of teachers’ professional development requirements (Article 187). The Minister of Education is also authorized to grant staff from pre-university education the following distinction “diploma for innovation and digitization in education” (Article 218).
The policies regarding the initial and in-service training of teachers are detailed in the strategic education policy framework "Educated Romania" Project which, consequently, sets specific objectives and measures forthe development of teachers’ digital skills. In this respect, the Project “Educated Romania” provides that the initial teacher training programmes, delivered in higher education institutions, include components targeting the development of digital competences to increase the quality and innovation in teaching, while also focusing on related aspects, such as on-line safety and the use and protection of personal data.
The in-service teacher training for the development and enhancement of digital competency will be carried out in close correlation with the needs and evidence resulted from the assessment mechanism of teachers’ digital competences, as well as other monitoring and assessment mechanisms regarding the actual use of digital competences in teaching. In addition, alternative in-service teacher training paths for the development of digital competences are also foreseen.
As a general remark, the initial and the in-service teacher training focusing on digital competences is carried out using as reference point the aforementioned Digital Competences Framework of the professional in education.
In this context, the systemic project “The professionalization of the teaching career - PROF” should also be noted, as it is an essential component of the “Educated Romania” Project with respect to the further development and operationalization of teacher training and teaching career policies. The Projects’ aim is the creation of a coherent and reliable national system for teacher training and for the development of the teaching competency, in the context of the global process of digitalization of education. Consequently, the Project aims to ensure the necessary conditions, in terms of curricular design, strategic methodological guidance and teacher training, to enable teaching and assessment in blended learning/online system or by other remote means (i.e. use of educational television programming).
In addition, as mentioned in Section 2.1, a systemic in-service teacher training programme on the use of new technologies in education will be implemented as a standalone investment within the reform on the digitalization of education implemented through the NRRP.
At national level, Romania implements the Cybersecurity Strategy for the period 2022-2027, as well as the Action Plan for the implementation of the Romania`s Cybersecurity Strategy, for the period 2022-2027, approved by GD no. 1321/2021. Relevant general level legislation in the field include Law no. 362/2018 on ensuring a high common level of security for computer networks and systems, GEO no. 104/2021 on the establishment of the National Directorate for Cyber Security (DNSC).
Cybersecurity, data protection, on-line safety and the IT ethics are issues addressed in the “Educated Romania” project, in the chapter on the digitalization of education. The following measures are provided: ensuring the technical and administrative conditions for the security and protection of personal data for optimal on-line learning, specific awareness raising and training on the on-line risk prevention for the responsible and secure use of digital devices and platforms, the design of training modules in the field of on-line safety, on the processing and protection of personal data, the combat of cyberbullying, as part of both pupils’ and students’ education, as well as teachers’ initial training, along with relevant public and private partnerships for awareness raising and training opportunities on these topics.
2.4.1. Data privacy
In Romania, the processing and the protection and privacy of personal data is done in compliance with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is directly applicable and with other legal acts that insure its implementation, such as the Law no 190 /2018. At national level, the National Supervisory Authority for Personal Data Processing (established by Law no. 102/2005) is the public authority mandated with the protection of the fundamental rights and freedoms of natural persons in relation to the processing of personal data and the free movement of such data.
Order no. 5.545/2020 on the approval of Framework methodology regarding the conduct of teaching activities through technology and the Internet, as well as for the processing of personal data provides that the security in the online education environment carried out when face to face education cannot be delivered, is ensured in compliance with the UE directives on cybersecurity, as well as the GDPR. The order provides the categories of personal data that are to be processed in line with the GDPR, as well as a series of technical and organizational measures for the protection and retention of data, such as ensuring online security, data confidentiality, preventing the risk of data loss or the modification and the unauthorized access to personal data, respectively. The Methodology forbids recording of activities carried out online.
2.4.2. Online abuse and cyberbullying
In the context of equipping pre-university education units with technological equipment, the legal framework provides that the educational software used in schools needs to ensure pupils’ data security and restrict their access to websites with dangerous or inappropriate content (Order no. 3497/2022).
The prevention and combat of cyberbullying of pupils is regulated by the methodological norms approved by Order no. 4.343/2020, which target both the bullying and cyberbullying phenomena in the pre-university education system.
In addition, the LPE no. 198/2023 provides that the centres for educational resources and assistance operating at county level and in the capital provide support services to the stuff and pupils in education units regarding the prevention of any form school violence, including cyberbullying (Article 120 (6)).
At curricular level, the topics of bullying and cyberbullying are addressed in various elective school disciplines that pupils can choose to study.
Technology in education and the digitalization of education are fields under the remit of the Ministry of Education.
However, at national level, the general framework and the guidelines on digitalization, ICT and other related fields are established and coordinated by other central institutions, such the Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digitalization (MRID) and the Authority for the Digitalization of Romania (ADR), with whom the Ministry of Education cooperates, in view of establishing the contribution of and the implications for the field of education. To this end, intergovernmental committees and working groups can be set up as coordination mechanisms.
The Administration Agency of the National Computer Network for Education and Research, mentioned in Section 2.2.1, entity under the coordination of the Ministry of Education, is responsible for administering and developing
the Romanian Education Network (RoEduNet). In addition, it implements projects related to the provision of communications infrastructure in education (ex. EduLIB, Virtual Campus Project).
Pursuant to the adoption of the LPE no.198/2023, the Executive Unit for Technical Support, Maintenance and Assistance for Digitalization (the Executive Unit for Digitalization) will be created, structure subordinated to the Ministry of Education, which will be in charge of the training of digital technology users in the national pre-university education system, the digitalization of processes and assistance in providing solutions for hardware and software IT issues. The Executive Unit will also oversee the Ministry of Education’s strategic digital platforms, will contribute to the accessibility of the online educational resources, will support the digital deployment of national evaluations and exams and will operationalize the Digital maturity monitoring mechanism for the pre-university education, defined in Section 1.
The Order no. 3497/2022 for the approval of standards for equipping pre-university education units with technological equipment, provides that the education units are responsible for ensuring the optimal and efficient endowment of classrooms and computer labs, in line with the unit’s specificity, needs and existing equipment, while complying with the standards established by the said order. In addition, the education units are to ensure the security of devices against viruses and malware, use specialized cyber security equipment to management the school’s internet networks used by the school, and ensure special electronic devices for persons with disabilities (both software and hardware assistive technologies).
In line with the provision of organizing national evaluations and exams in digital formats, Order no. 3497/2022 includes standards for the equipment of education units in view of organizing and carrying out the standardized evaluations foreseen by the LPE no.198/2023.
This profile was reviewed by the General Directorate for International Relations and European Affairs and by the General Directorate for the implementation of the “Educated Romania” Project at the Ministry of Education of Romania