Home Economy We are losing a generation: The devastating impacts of COVID-19—WB

We are losing a generation: The devastating impacts of COVID-19—WB

by Business News Report

The World Bank in a blog post has said that governments across the globe will spend about $5trillion on K-12 education this year. It said “But unless they get all children and young people back to school, keep them in class, and recover the central elements of learning, this generation could lose twice or three times that amount in earning losses. The first impact was the millions of lives lost due to the disease caused by the COVID 19 virus. The second was the human suffering caused by job instability and poverty. The third is on children and youth who should have been in school but were told to stay at home. It is two years since the pandemic started. Nearly all countries decided that one of the main ways to fight the pandemic was to keep students out of school and universities. Public health experts had decided that keeping education institutions open would lead to further spread of the virus. To “flatten the curve” and prevent overcrowding of hospitals, kids would have to stay home.

“Many European and some East Asian countries reopened school relatively quickly, conscious of both the obvious costs for kids and the scant evidence of the benefits of the complete closure. But in many countries in South Asia, Latin America, Middle East, and even in East Asia, school closures were maintained for exceptionally long periods. Our own countries, India and Peru, are tragically representative.

“By the end of 2021, school days lost were well above two hundred, that is about a school year and a half. This prolonged interruption in learning could have grave long lasting effects, particularly in middle income and poor countries. Most of the impact will be on children and youth who happened to be between 4 and 25 years old in 2020 and 2021, generating a huge intergenerational inequality. Being out of school for that long means that children not just stop learning, they also tend to forget a lot of what they have learned. In late 2020, the World Bank estimated that a 7 month absence from schools would increase the share of students in learning poverty from 53 to 63 per cent. An additional 7 million students would drop out of school. The effects on marginalised minorities and girls will be even worse. Our loss estimates have been revised upwards, and now we expect that,  unless swift and bold action is taken, learning poverty can reach 70%.

“In all countries—rich, middle-income and poor—kids from the poorest families are bearing the largest losses as their opportunities to maintain any educational engagement through remote learning are limited.  Internet access for them is poor: only half of all students in middle income countries and just a tenth in the poorest countries have web access.  The use of TV and radio and facilitating learning materials has helped, but it cannot replace interactive education.  ‘Learning’ cannot just mean watching television or listening to the radio for a few hours a day. The result is a widening of the already large inequality of opportunity. In the developing world, COVID-19 might lead to lower growth, higher poverty and more inequality for a generation, a terrible triple threat to global prosperity for decades to come. “The future of a billion kids around the world is at risk. Unless we get them back in school again and find ways to remedy the effects of the interruption, COVID-19 will result in a huge setback for this generation.”

“By late last year, we had hard data about learning losses in middle-income countries like Brazil and India. In the state of São Paulo, for example, educators decided to measure the status of learning continuously—as opposed to many countries who have postponed any type of learning measurement, maybe to avoid getting bad news. They find that after a year without in-person classes, students had learned 27 percent less what they would have learned in normal times. India’s Pratham, a well-regarded education NGO, has found that minimum proficiency levels have been cut by half in the state of Karnataka. Encouragingly, by the end of 2021, schools had reopened in many countries. But nearly one in four education systems were still closed and many systems had reopened only partially.  1.5 billion children were back in class, though 300 million kids still need to be brought back to school safely. But that was before the Omicron variant of the virus. These numbers have changed since the start of this year.  We think a blend of reopened schools, remote learning and remedial programs can limit the damage caused by the disruptions and serve as a model response for future shocks—and maybe even make public education better than it was a couple of years ago”.

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