Global disruption to education caused by COVId 19 has no parallels and the present generation of children risks losing 17 trillion dollar in lifetime earnings in present value or about 14 percent of today’s GDP in present value, according to a new report published today by the World Bank, UNESCO, and UNICEF.
In the report “The State of the Global Education Crisis: A Path to Recovery, the authors said that the new projection showed that the impact is more severe than previously thought, and far exceeds the ten trillion dollar estimate released in 2020.
Moreover, it said that the share of children living in “learning poverty” in low and middle income countries would rise to 70 percent because of the long school closures and the varying quality and effectiveness of remote lamming. Before the pandemic, the share of children living in Learning Poverty was 50 per cent. Pointing out that the pandemic brought education systems across the world to a halt, World Bank Global Director for Education Jaime Saavedra opined that the loss of learning that many children are experiencing was morally unacceptable. He said that the potential increase of Learning Poverty might have a devastating impact on future productivity, earnings, and well-being for this generation of children and youth, their families and the world’s economies.
CRISIS EXACERBATED INEQUALITY IN EDUCATION
The report states that full and partial school closures lasted an average of 224 days. However, it lasted longer in low and middle-income countries. Teachers in many of the low and middle-income countries got only limited professional development support to transition to remote learning. This left them unprepared to engage with learners and caregivers. The young students and students with disabilities were largely left out of countries’ policy responses with remote learning rarely designed in a way that met their developmental needs. Girls faced several barriers because of social norms, limited digital skills and lack of access to devices.
PROGRESS STAGNATED OR REVERSED
The unified report mentioned that children’s health and safety was jeopardized during school closure. The period also saw an increase of domestic violence and child labour. More than 370 million children globally missed out on school meals during school closures. It also notes that mental health crisis among young people also reached unprecedented levels. Apart from this, school closure places an estimated ten million more girls at risk of early marriage in the next decade and at increased risk of dropping out of school.
As per estimates, school closures resulted in significant learning losses. As an example, the report points out that regional evidence from Brazil, Pakistan, rural India, South Africa, and Mexico, among others, showed substantial losses in math and reading. Analysis shows that in some countries, on average, learning losses are roughly proportional to the length of the closures. However, there was great heterogeneity across countries and by subject, students’ socioeconomic status, gender, and grade level. For example, results from two states in Mexico show significant learning losses in reading and in math for students aged 10-15. The estimated learning losses were greater in math than reading, and affected younger learners, students from low-income backgrounds, as well as girls.
UNICEF Director of Education Robert Jenkins said that school closure disrupted education for 1.6 billion students at its peak and exacerbated the gender divide. “In some countries, we’re seeing greater learning losses among girls and an increase in their risk of facing child labour, gender-based violence, early marriage, and pregnancy. To stem the scars on this generation, we must reopen schools and keep them open, target outreach to return learners to school, and accelerate learning recovery,” said jenkins.
The report highlights that less than 3 percent of governments’ stimulus packages have been allocated to education till now. Much more funding will be needed for immediate learning recovery. The report also notes that while nearly every country in the world offered remote learning opportunities for students, the quality and reach of such initiatives differed – in most cases, they offered, at best, a rather partial substitute for in-person instruction. More than 200 million learners live in low- and lower middle-income countries that are unprepared to deploy remote learning during emergency school closures.
It pointed out that less than three percent of governments’ stimulus packages have been allocated to education. Noting that this was not enough and much more fund was needed, the report mentioned that almost every country in the world offered remote learning opportunities for students but the quality and reach of such initiatives differed in most cases. More than 200 million learners live in low- and lower middle-income countries that are unprepared to deploy remote learning during emergency school closures, the report stated. It said that the governments should give priority to reopening schools. Countries should put in place Learning Recovery Programs with the objective of assuring that students of this generation attain at least the same competencies of the previous generation.
Programs must cover three key lines of action to recover learning:
1) consolidating the curriculum;
2) extending instructional time;
3) improving the efficiency of learning.
The report mentions among other things that techniques like targeted instruction can help learning recovery, which means that teachers align instruction to the learning level of students, rather than an assumed starting point on curricular expectation. Targeted instruction will require addressing the learning data crisis by assessing students learning levels. It also necessitates additional support to teachers so that they are well-equipped to teach to the level of where children are, which is crucial to prevent losses from accumulating once children are back in school.
To build more resilient education systems for the long-term, countries should consider:
Investing in enabling environment to unlock the potential of digital learning opportunities for all students
- Reinforcing the role of parents, families, and communities in children’s learning
- Ensuring teachers have support and access to high-quality professional development opportunities
- Increasing the share of education in the national budget allocation of stimulus packages