Educational challenges and opportunities of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (2023)

  • Jaime Saavedra

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We live in the midst of what may be one of the greatest threats of our lives to global education, a gigantic educational crisis. On March 28, 2020, we were already witnessing a global learning crisis as many students went to school but failed to learn the basic skills needed for life. The World Bank"learning poverty' - the percentage of children unable to read and understand by age 10 - was 53% of children in low- and middle-income countries before the outbreak began. This pandemic has the potential to make these outcomes even worse if we don't act quickly.

At this stage of the crisis, what should we be concerned about that could have an immediate impact on children and young people? (1) Learning losses (2) Increased dropout rates (3) Children miss the most important meal of the day. Furthermore, most countries have very unequal education systems, and this negative impact will be felt disproportionately by poor children. When it rains, it pours for them.

Learn. Starting the school year late or interrupting it (depending on whether you live in the southern or northern hemisphere) disrupts the lives of many children, their parents and teachers. Much can be done to at least reduce the impact of distance learning strategies. Richer countries are better prepared to move to online learning strategies, albeit with much effort and challenges for teachers and parents. The situation is very different in middle-income and poorer countries, and unless we act appropriately, the huge inequality of opportunity that exists – scandalous and initially unacceptable – will be exacerbated. Many children do not have a desk, books, internet connection, laptop at home or supportive parents. Others do. What we must avoid – or minimize as much as possible – is that these disparities in opportunities widen and cause the crisis to have an even greater negative impact on the learning of poor children.

Fortunately, we see a lot of creativity in many countries. Many ministries of education rightly fear that the exclusive use of online strategies will only reach children from wealthier families. The appropriate strategy in most countries is to use all possible delivery modes with the infrastructure available today. Use online tools to ensure lesson plans, videos, tutorials, and other resources are available for some students and likely most teachers. But also podcasts and other features that require less data usage. Working with telecom companies to enforce zero-fee policies can also make it easier to download study material onto a smartphone, which more students are likely to have.

Radio and television are also very powerful tools. The advantage we have today is that ministries of education can effectively communicate with parents and teachers through social networks, WhatsApp or SMS and provide guidance, instructions and structure for the learning process, using content provided by radio or television. . Remote learning isn't just about online learning, it's about mixed media learning, aiming to reach as many students as possible today.

stay engagedKeeping children involved, especially high school students, is vital. Dropout rates are still very high in many countries, and a long dropout phase can lead to further increases. Going to school means not only learning math and science, but also social relationships and peer interactions. It's about becoming a citizen and developing social skills. It is therefore important to maintain contact with the school by any means necessary. For all students, this is also a time to develop socio-emotional skills and learn more about how they can contribute to society as citizens. The role of parents and family, which has always been extremely important, is fundamental in this task. Therefore, much of the help that ministries of education provide through the mass media must also go to parents. Radio, TV and SMS messages can be used to give tips and advice on how best to support your children.

meals.In many parts of the world, school feeding programs provide children with the most nutritious meal of the day. They are essential for cognitive development and well-being. These programs are complex logistical and administrative undertakings. It's not easy, but countries must find a way to provide these meals in an organized way through schools, community buildings or networks, or distribute them directly to families if necessary. When delivery of meals or food is not logistically feasible, cash transfer programs should be expanded or implemented to compensate parents. Planning is necessary, but one must be willing to adjust plans flexibly, as the information we have about the likely paths of the pandemic changes every day, influenced by the uncertainty of what mitigation measures countries are taking. The process of reopening schools may be gradual, as authorities seek to reduce crowding or the possibility of a second wave of the pandemic that could hit some countries. In this uncertain context, it may be better to make decisions assuming a longer scenario than a shorter one. The good news is that many of the improvements, initiatives and investments that school systems need to make can have a positive and lasting impact.

Some countries will be able to improve their teachers' digital skills. Radio and TV stations will recognize their key role in supporting national education goals - and hopefully improve the quality of their programs as they fulfill their immense social responsibilities. Parents will be more involved in their children's educational process and ministries of education will have a much clearer understanding of the gaps and challenges (in terms of connectivity, hardware, integration of digital tools into the curriculum, teacher readiness) involved in effectively using and effective consist of technology acting on it. All of these can strengthen a country's future education system.

The mission of all education systems is the same. It is about overcoming the learning crisis that we were already experiencing and responding to the pandemic that we are all facing. The challenge today is to reduce the negative impact of this pandemic on learning and schooling as much as possible, and take advantage of this experience to get back on the path of faster learning improvement. As education systems navigate this crisis, they too must think about how to bounce back stronger, with a renewed sense of responsibility from all stakeholders and with a better understanding and sense of urgency of the need to close the opportunity gap and make sure everyone does. have equal opportunities for a quality education.



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COVID-19 (Coronavirus)


Jaime Saavedra

Global Director, Global Education Practice, Weltbank

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Shweta Gaur

March 31, 2020

Hi Jamie,
Thanks for sharing the insights. I am from India and our students face all the problems you mentioned. Most schools here were downsizing the curriculum and preparing for annual exams when COVID 19 hit. So schools announced holidays and students were sent home. This would happen in 10 days even if the virus wasn't there. However, the situation now is that schools may not reopen until the end of June.
Our students don't have laptops (most of them do) and parents don't want to give them a phone (fear of child abuse). So how else can a teacher use technology to teach classes?

Kit Yasin, Center for Educational Development

March 31, 2020

Excellent review James! I agree with the need for innovative uses of technology and audio in particular. For decades, we've seen interactive audio instruction transform classrooms, helping students learn at home when school is disrupted or when access is unavailable. We've seen it train teachers and parents. Let's see what we have in hand – ECD programs in Paraguay or Honduras, reading and math classes in Somalia or Haiti, English and soft skills job preparation for youth in Latin America, and the list goes on… It won't be long too much to put it on air or download it to a phone. Let's see this as an opportunity for parents at home to be part of the process.



The answers to such a huge challenge as maintaining a quality education, in the face of what we are experiencing, suggest that teachers love our profession, because only then will we all work together to use the tools at our disposal. Let's involve everyone learn with enthusiasm.

rashmila bajracharya


Thanks for sharing the information. I am from Nepal, here we also challenge these issues and in particular lack of learning, interaction with peer groups as everyone explained.

Susanne Durston


I think we need to think more laterally. The Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone showed that one of the main problems related to school closures and arrests was the sexual abuse of girls. A child-led radio program allowed girls to voice their own concerns and continue learning. Read the study on the Child to Child or UNGEI website.

Jane Paderog

October 15, 2021

very informative

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