Tackling the Global Learning Crisis
By exacerbating a pre-existing "learning crisis," the COVID-19 pandemic has undermined many developing countries' long-term economic prospects. Even in the face of today's fiscal constraints, immediate action to improve educational outcomes has become an urgent priority.
NEW HAVEN – Education has emerged as one of the most consequential casualties of the pandemic. According to estimates from UNESCO, around 1.6 billion students across more than 190 countries were forced out of school at the peak of the crisis.
In higher-income countries, school closures have disproportionately harmed students from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds, raising concerns about the long-run implications for learning and earnings inequality. There is a visible and widening gap between students with educated parents and access to computers and the internet, and those lacking such resources.
But the picture is even bleaker in low-income settings. In 2019, the World Bank estimated that 53% of children finishing primary school in low- and middle-income countries (and as many as 80% in some low-income countries) still could not read and understand a simple text. In light of these findings, the bank introduced a new concept: “learning poverty.”
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