One in three countries not taking steps to cover learning losses post-COVID-19 school closures

According to a global “Survey on National Educational Responses to COVID-19 School Closures” by UNESCO, UNICEF, World Bank and OECD, around one in three countries where schools are or have been closed are not yet implementing remedial programs after COVID-19 schools have closed “At the same time, only a third of countries are taking steps to measure learning loss in primary and lower secondary education – especially in high-income countries.

“Measuring learning losses is a critical first step in mitigating the consequences. It is crucial that countries invest in assessing the magnitude of such losses in order to take appropriate remedial action, ”said Silvia Montoya, director of the UNESCO Institute of Statistics.

Less than a third of low- and middle-income countries reported that all students had returned to face-to-face training, increasing their risk of learning loss and dropping out. However, the majority of countries reported using at least one form of contact to encourage student return to school, including community engagement, school-based follow-up, changes to water, sanitation and hygiene services, financial incentives, and review of access policies .

“Tutoring is vital in helping children who miss school get back on track and reducing long-term learning losses. This requires urgent efforts to measure student learning levels today and to collect high quality data to inform classroom practice. as envisaged by UNICEF, UNESCO and the World Bank as part of the Learning Data Compact, “emphasizes Jaime Saavedra, Global Director for Education, World Bank.

The survey documents how countries monitor and mitigate learning losses, address the challenge of reopening schools, and employ distance learning strategies. A total of 142 countries responded to the survey, which spans February to May 2021 and includes pre-school, primary, lower secondary and upper secondary levels.

“Distance learning has been a lifeline for many children around the world during school closings. But for the weakest, even that was out of reach. It is imperative that we now bring every child back into the classroom. But we can’t stop here; A better reopening means putting in place support programs to help students get back on track and making sure that we prioritize girls and children at risk in all our efforts, ”said Robert Jenkins, UNICEF’s global director of education.

The main results of the survey include:

The Länder have responded with a variety of measures to mitigate potential learning losses from school closings: around 40 percent of the Länder extended the school year and a similar proportion of the Länder gave priority to certain areas of the curriculum. However, more than half of the countries indicated that no adjustments have been or will be made.

Many countries improved health and safety standards in exam centers, yet 28 percent of countries canceled lower secondary exams and 18 percent of upper secondary countries canceled.

The review or revision of the access guidelines was unusual, especially for girls – a cause for concern as adolescent girls in low- and lower-middle-income countries are at greatest risk of not returning to school.

Low-income countries are lagging behind in implementing even the most basic of measures to ensure return to school. For example, less than 10 percent said they had sufficient soap, clean water, sanitary and hygienic facilities, and masks, compared to 96 percent of high-income countries.

The survey also sheds light on the use and effectiveness of distance learning and related support more than a year after the pandemic. The results show that:

Most countries have taken several measures to provide distance learning: radio and television programs were more popular in low-income countries, while high-income countries made online learning platforms available. However, over a third of low and lower middle income countries reported reaching less than half of primary school students.

Contextual distance learning strategies, parental involvement, support by and for teachers, and ensuring that girls and other marginalized children are not left behind are required to ensure acceptance and engagement. It also requires the generation of rigorous data on the effectiveness of distance learning. While 73 percent of countries have assessed the effectiveness of at least one distance learning strategy, there is still a need for better evidence of effectiveness in the most difficult contexts.

“There is an urgent need to provide more and better evidence of the effectiveness of distance learning, especially in the most difficult contexts, and to support the development of digital learning strategies,” said Andreas Schleicher, Director, OECD Education and Skills.

In 2020, schools around the world at all four levels of education were completely closed on average for 79 teaching days, which corresponds to around 40 percent of the total teaching days on average for the OECD and G20 countries. The numbers ranged from 53 days in high-income countries to 115 days in low-middle-income countries.

Demand for funds is increasing in competition with other sectors, while government revenues are falling. Nevertheless, 49 percent of countries increased their education budget in 2020 compared to 2019, while 43 percent kept their budget constant. The funds are to be increased in 2021, as more than 60 percent of the countries plan to increase their education budget compared to 2020.

These results reaffirm the importance of reopening schools, remedial education and more effective distance learning systems that can better withstand future crises and reach all students. In addition, it shows that measuring learning losses due to COVID-19 in connection with school closings is a critical effort for most countries and development partners, as highlighted by the recent partnership between UNESCO, UNICEF and the World Bank in the context of the Learning Data Compact.

The survey is in line with Mission: Recovering Education 2021, where the World Bank, UNESCO and UNICEF are working together to help countries take all possible action to plan, prioritize and ensure all learners are back to go to school; that schools take all measures to reopen safely; that students receive effective remedial learning and comprehensive services to compensate for learning losses and improve general well-being; and their teachers are prepared and supported for their learning needs.

The survey will be launched during the Ministerial Conference of the Global Education Meeting on July 13th.