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Even before Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) hit, the world was already experiencing a learning crisis. 258 million primary- and secondary-school age children and youth were out of school. Many children who were in school were learning very little.

This is the summing up from the report “The State of the Global Education Crisis: A Path to Recovery”, published in December 2021 [1]

The report shows that 53 per cent of all ten-year-old children in low- and middle-income countries were experiencing learning poverty, meaning that they were unable to read and understand a simple age-appropriate text at age 10.

Furthermore, the report spotlights how COVID-19 has deepened the education crisis and charts a course for creating more resilient education systems for the future. Section two of the report documents COVID-19’s impacts on learning levels by presenting updated simulations and bringing together the latest documented evidence on learning loss from over 28 countries.

The following text is from the report.

The Quality of Remote Learning Opportunities for Students Varied Greatly

The global disruption to education caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is without parallel, and its effects on learning have been severe. The crisis brought education systems across the world to a halt, with school closures affecting more than 1.6 billion learners.

While nearly every country in the world offered remote learning opportunities for students, the quality and reach of such initiatives varied greatly, and they were at best partial substitutes for in-person learning. Now, 21 months later, schools remain closed for millions of children and youth, and millions more are at risk of never returning to education. Growing evidence on the impacts of school closures on children’s learning depicts a harrowing reality. Learning losses have been large and inequitable: recent learning assessments show that children in many countries have missed out on most or all of the academic learning they would ordinarily have acquired in school, with younger and more marginalized children often missing out the most.

Students in São Paulo (Brazil) learned only 28 per cent of what they would have in face-to-face classes and the risk of dropout increased more than threefold. In rural Karnataka (India), the share of grade three students in government schools able to perform simple subtraction fell from 24 per cent in 2018 to only 16 per cent in 2020.

The global learning crisis has grown by even more than previously feared: this generation of students now risks losing $17 trillion in lifetime earnings in present value as a result of school closures, or the equivalent of 14 per cent of today’s global GDP, far more than the $10 trillion estimated in 2020. In low- and middle-income countries, the share of children living in Learning Poverty—already over 50 per cent before the pandemic—will rise sharply, potentially up to 70 per cent, given the long school closures and the varying quality and effectiveness of remote learning.

Empty Classroom. Photo: Adobe Stock

The crisis exacerbated inequality in education.

Globally, full and partial school closures lasted an average of 224 days. But in low- and middle-income countries, school closures often lasted longer than in high-income countries, and the response was typically less effective. Teachers in many low- and middle-income countries received limited professional development support to transition to remote learning, leaving them unprepared to engage with learners and caregivers. At home, households’ ability to respond to the shock varied by income level. Children from disadvantaged households were less likely to benefit from remote learning than their peers, often due to a lack of electricity, connectivity, devices, and caregiver support. The youngest 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 compounding barriers to learning amidst school closures, as social norms, limited digital skills, and lack of access to devices constrained their ability to keep learning.

Progress Made for Children and Youth Has Stagnated or Reversed

Schools ordinarily provide critical services that extend beyond learning and offer safe spaces for protection. During school closures, children’s health and safety were jeopardized, with domestic violence and child labour increasing. More than 370 million children globally missed out on school meals during school closures, losing what is for some children the only reliable source of food and daily nutrition. The mental health crisis among young people has reached unprecedented levels. Advances in gender equality are threatened, with school closures placing an estimated 10 million more girls at risk of early marriage in the next decade and at increased risk of dropping out of school. The COVID-19 crisis forced the global education community to learn some critical lessons but also highlighted that transformation and innovation are possible. Despite the shortcomings of remote learning initiatives, there were bright spots and innovations. Remote and hybrid education, which became a necessity when the pandemic hit, has the potential to transform the future of learning if systems are strengthened and technology is better leveraged to complement skilled and well-supported teachers.

References

The State of the Global Education Crisis: A Path to Recovery, WORLD BANK, December 2021


Lucubrate Magazine January 2022

The picture on the top of the article: Adobe Stock


Students. Picture: Adobe Stock

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Lucubrate Magazine
Lucubrate Magazine

Lucubrate Magazine highlights trends in education and development. Development in this context can be technological, educational, individual, social or global, and everything related to education.
Lucubrate Magazine is a global based on the web magazine with the main office in Norway.

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