Covid-19 pandemic caught everyone off guard and its impacts are far from over. The pandemic affected every field and areas, and education was hit the worst. The only question now is how to recover education? An independent multidisciplinary panel of leading global education experts under the Global Education Evidence Advisory Panel (GEEAP) has come up with a few recommendations to tackle the global learning crisis in the wake of Covid-19.
The report, “Prioritizing Learning During Covid-19”, summarizes the best evidence available, including on what has worked so far during the pandemic, and provides a bunch of recommendations
Prioritize keeping schools and preschools fully open
Schools must be reopened and stay open. The large educational, economic, social, and mental health costs of school closures suggest full or partial school closure should be a last resort in governments Covid -19 mitigation strategies. These costs fall heavily on the less well-off and girls, including through increased risk of teen pregnancy. The impacts of school closures will last longer than disruptions in many other sectors since losses in human capital reduce income and productivity throughout a child’s life. Schools not only provide spaces for learning, but also deliver a range of critical services for students, including school meals, psychosocial support, and protection. Children need to be supported in their return to school and provided comprehensive supports that not only ensure their learning, but also their wellbeing. The priority should be keeping preschools, primary and secondary schools fully open over keeping non-education sectors open, where disruptions cause shorter-term losses.
Reduce transmission in schools
The GEEAP cites ventilation and masking as key pandemic mitigation measures and calls for prioritizing teachers for vaccination. In Bangladesh, a randomized evaluation found that even imperfect masking substantially reduced community transmission (a 30-percentage-point increase in maskwearing reduced transmission by 11% for surgical masks and 5% for the cloth masks often used in schools).
Adjust instruction to reflect the new reality and focus on important foundational skills
As children come back to school, curricula will need to be adjusted and aligned across the system to focus on foundational skills that children have missed. It will be too difficult for teachers to cover all the curricula as if children were just returning from a short break rather than major disruption to their schooling, Catch-up classes will be critical to meet children at their learning level rather than their curriculum grade. A series of randomized evaluations in India show that adjusting instruction to a child’s level can rapidly improve foundational reading and math skills, even for students well behind grade level. When schools closed in Kano Nigeria, the government leaned on the evidence-based Teaching at the Right Level approach to help pupils, both during and after school closures.
Provide additional instructional support to teachers
Teachers need support to continue improving their teaching skills, for example through structured pedagogy and simple teaching guides, to provide effective learning to their students as they return. They may also need increased human support to accommodate students varying learning levels and needs. In South Africa, youth who volunteered as teaching assistants dramatically increased reading and math skills.
Leverage technology that is fit to country context
Remote education was not available to most students in low- and middle-income countries and most remote learning solutions were an inadequate substitute for in-person learning. Low-tech and no-tech solutions have been effective in many areas. But eventually, technology will have the potential to be an effective support in all education systems. In Brazil, text messages sent to students reduced dropout rates by 26% during the pandemic. In Bangladesh, mentoring and home-schooling support provided by tutors through mobile phones had large impacts on learning outcomes
Foster parental engagement
Studies prior to the pandemic demonstrate how some parental involvement approaches can increase children’s learning at low cost to the parent. These include direct communication from schools to parents, engaging more with young children in educational activities, reading books to a child (where the parent is literate), and sharing simple exercises for the parent to use with their child by text or phone call. Parents and caregivers have been engaged in education in an unprecedented way, and their expanded role should be encouraged as schools reopen.