Next gen to lose $17tn due to pandemic
A generation of students now risks losing $17 trillion in lifetime earnings in present value, or about 14 percent of today's global GDP, as a result of Covid-19 pandemic-related school closures, according to a new report published on Monday by the World Bank, UNESCO and UNICEF.
The new projection reveals that the impact is more severe than previously thought of, and far exceeds the USD 10 trillion estimates released in 2020.
In addition, "The State of the Global Education Crisis: A Path to Recovery" report shows that in low- and middle-income countries, the share of children living in "learning poverty" -- already 53 percent before the pandemic -- could potentially reach 70 percent given the long school closures and the ineffectiveness of remote learning to ensure full learning continuity during school closures.
"The Covid-19 crisis brought education systems across the world to a halt," said Jaime Saavedra, World Bank Global Director for Education. "Now, 21 months later, schools remain closed for millions of children, and others may never return to school. The loss of learning that many children are experiencing is morally unacceptable. And 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."
The report said children from low-income households, children with disabilities, and girls were less likely to access remote learning than their peers. This was often due to a lack of accessible technologies and the availability of electricity, connectivity, and devices, as well as discrimination and gender norms.
Younger students had less access to remote learning and were more affected by learning loss than older students, especially among pre-school age children in pivotal learning and development stages.
The detrimental impact on learning has disproportionately affected the most marginalised or vulnerable. Learning losses were greater for students of lower socioeconomic status in countries like Ghana, Mexico, and Pakistan.
Initial evidence points to larger losses among girls, as they are quickly losing the protection that schools and learning offer to their well-being and life chances.
"The Covid-19 pandemic shut down schools across the world, disrupting 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 UNICEF Director of Education Robert Jenkins.
The report highlights that, to date, less than 3 percent of governments' stimulus packages have been allocated to education.
Much more funding will be needed for immediate learning recovery. Reopening schools must remain a top and urgent priority globally to stem and reverse learning losses. Countries should put in place learning recovery programmes to assure that students of this generation attain at least the same competencies as the previous generation.
The programmes must cover three key lines of action to recover learning --consolidating the curriculum; extending instructional time; and improving the efficiency of learning.
To build more resilient education systems for the long-term, countries should consider: investing in the 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 and increasing the share of education in the national budget allocation of stimulus packages.
This report was produced as part of the "Mission: Recovering Education 2021" by which the World Bank, UNESCO, and UNICEF are focused on three priorities: bringing all children back to schools, recovering learning losses, and preparing and supporting teachers.