By having the privilege of attending a private school in an educationally-rich country, I’ve been quarantined from the reality of the current global education crisis. Escalating this, around 1000 days since the World Health Organisation’s announcement of a global pandemic, as students return to school, countries are faced with the unprecedented issue of a global learning crisis. Although widespread in its effects, developing countries without digital educational resources to alleviate the stresses of lockdowns particularly suffered. Only now are we beginning to receive the benchmark results revealing the scale of the issue. A unified UNESCO and UNICEF report, Mission: Recovering Education 2021, focuses on three main priorities:
- Bringing all children back to schools
- Recovering learning losses
- Preparing and supporting teachers
These highlight international goals to fight the current crisis-level learning poverty* (a measure of children unable to read and understand a simple passage by age 10) rates. These goals are achievable through government and private support with financial and human resources.
Return To School
Many factors affect the reopening of schools and the continuation of education. Children from low-income households, children with disabilities, and girls were less likely to access remote learning due to limited availability of electricity, connectivity, devices, and accessible technologies as well as discrimination and social and gender norms. Students who have been disadvantaged in these ways require in-person schooling to reverse the impacts of the pandemic. This is a struggle for financially poor countries without developed health systems, however, international support from more privileged countries, like our own, reassures parents and countries that adequate safety measures will be in place.
“Safely reopening schools and keeping them open must be the top priority, globally.” – Jessica Bergmann Education Researcher – UNICEF Office of Research.
The pandemic and school closures not only jeopardized children’s health and safety with domestic violence and child labour increasing, but have also impacted student learning substantially. The report indicates that in low and middle-income countries, the number of children living in learning poverty – already above 50 percent before the pandemic – could reach 70 percent, largely as a result of the long school closures and the relative ineffectiveness of remote learning. In South Asia and South America, children lost on average 273 and 225 full days of school respectively, exacerbating inequalities in education. This would mean that all of the gains in learning poverty that low and middle-income countries recorded since 2000 have been lost during the pandemic.
Preparing and supporting teachers
To recover from the educational losses, immediate action is required:
- consolidating curriculums
- extending time available for education
- supporting teachers to provide structured, resourced and targeted lessons
This all requires adequate funding. The education and training sector had been allocated less than 3 percent of global stimulus packages. Much more funding will be needed for learning recovery if countries are to avert the long-term damage to productivity, literacy and numeracy rates.
In writing this blog I considered what raising awareness meant. It can be easy to consider yourself aware, once read about an issue, but have no actual impact yourself. I urge you to start conversations with people around you about the global education crisis and encourage leaders to take action to the greatest scale possible, in the aim of decreasing learning poverty.
Gunchaa, a 17 year old #letmelearn education advocate in India, states “Education as a right and a "granted right" will open infinite doors of opportunities and possibilities for us, to explore, engage and enhance ourselves.” This is a crisis that will affect everyone, even the privileged, so everybody has a responsibility to help shape and rebuild the global education system of tomorrow.