A year into the coronavirus pandemic and the world is still suffering its catastrophic consequences. The global health crisis started an almost irredeemable chain of reactions, causing worldwide setbacks in many fields. However, the educational field is probably the one suffering the most. After a year of school disruption, the world is now witnessing the pandemic’s alarming effect on global education. Thus, according to a UN cultural study, 100 million more children from around the world than previously projected are failing the minimum reading proficiency level.
Basic Reading Skills
According to a UNESCO study, the world was on the right path to improving international reading skills and eliminating illiteracy. Before the pandemic started, educational experts expected it to fall from 483 million to 460 million in 2020. However, due to the ongoing global crisis, the number increased to 584 million students.
The unexpected increase demolished two decades’ worth of international effort. With almost 55 million primary students worldwide missing out on at least three-quarters of classroom instruction time, they are missing out on the crucial, most vital time to develop their reading skills. Moreover, it will take the educational field decades to go back to pre-pandemic numbers and to reduce the 20 percent rise.
“With every day that goes by, children unable to access in-person schooling fall further and further behind, with the most marginalized paying the heaviest price,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said. “No effort should be spared to keep schools open, or prioritize them in reopening plans.”
Unprecedented learning setbacks
The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the schools’ progress for almost 25 weeks. Though the entire world is burdening this educational and health crisis, students in Latin America, the Caribbean region, Central, and Southern Asia are suffering the highest learning losses and setbacks.
In the US, almost 97% of educators reported witnessing student’s learning loss during the past year when compared with previous years’ students. Furthermore, educators believe that more than 57% of these students are three months behind on their social-emotional progress.
However, even though many experts believe that it would take decades to return to pre-Covid-19 normal, the “One year into COVID” report states that the world can recover by 2024 “if exceptional efforts are made to provide remedial classes and catch-up strategies.”
Facts and data prove the negative impacts of school closures. Moreover, they also prove that schools are not prominent drivers of the pandemic in the case of serious precautions. However, despite all that, many countries preferred to keep their schools closed for more than a year.
Though schools started opening fully and partially again in 107 countries, more than 30 countries are still reinforcing the school closure policy. Thus, full school closure is still impacting more than 165 million students, while hybrid learning is affecting the learning process for billions of students.
Reducing the gap
Though the virus doesn’t discriminate, life does. The impacts of the coronavirus on the rich are nothing compared to the ones the virus left on poor and vulnerable communities. Therefore, one of the obstacles education workers face is reducing the excellence gap. Students from all different backgrounds have the same right to education. Thus, it is the governments’ responsibility to ensure that all communities receive the same education-related opportunities
“Although this disruption has led to learning innovations, it has also dashed hopes of a brighter future among vulnerable populations.,” said UN Secretary‑General António Guterres in a statement. “All of us pay the price. After all, education is the foundation for expanding opportunities, transforming economies, fighting intolerance, protecting our planet, and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.”
Call for action
Prioritizing education is crucial to returning students on the right track and eliminating illiteracy. Schools aren’t only crucial for children’s learning, but also their health, safety, and well-being. However, despite their importance, 65 percent of governments in low-income countries decided to decrease education funding. 35 percent of governments in high-income countries also reduced their funding.
To tackle this potential generational catastrophe, the world must face the problem heads on. The coronavirus has impacted all of the world’s economies. However, it is not a good excuse for marginalizing the educational field. Governments must create adequate plans to finalize the school’s full reopening. They must also accelerate the accessibility of the digital tools while creating suitable initiatives that prevent students from dropping out.