Students globally are eight months behind where they would have been absent the pandemic, revealed a Mckinsey report which studied how COVID-19 has caused a global learning crisis. The findings of the report state that the impact of the pandemic varies widely, with countries falling into three archetypes namely high-performing systems, low-income pre-pandemic-challenged systems, and pandemic-affected middle-income systems.
According to the findings, in high-performing systems such as North America and Europe, students may be about one to five months behind due to the pandemic. In low-income pre-pandemic-challenged systems, such as sub-Saharan Africa, students may be about three to eight months behind due to the pandemic. And in pandemic-affected middle-income systems, such as Latin America and South Asia students may be nine to 15 months behind due to the pandemic.
The findings further revealed that the length of school closures varied widely across the world. School buildings in middle-income Latin America and South Asia were fully or partially closed the longest- for over 75 weeks. Those in high-income Europe and Central Asia were fully or partially closed for less time about 30 weeks on an average, and those in low-income sub-Saharan Africa were closed for about 34 weeks on average.
Further, the findings revealed that access to quality remote and hybrid learning also varied both across and within countries. In Tanzania, while school buildings were closed, children in just 6% of households listened to radio lessons, 5% accessed TV lessons, and fewer than 1 % participated in online learning.
Furthermore, the findings revealed that pandemic-related learning delayed stack up on top of historical learning inequities. As per the World Bank estimates, while students in high-income countries gained an average of 50 harmonized learning outcomes (HLO) points a year pre-pandemic, students in low-income countries were gaining just 20, leaving those students several years behind. The pandemic also increased inequalities within systems, the report said. For example, it widened gaps between majority Black and majority White schools in the United States and increased pre-existing urban-rural divides in Ethiopia.
The study suggested that lower levels of learning translate into lower future earnings potential for students and lower economic productivity for nations. By 2040, the economic impact of pandemic-related learning delays could lead to annual losses of $1.6 trillion worldwide, or 0.9 percent of total global GDP.
The study further added that school systems can overcome this delay in learning by tailoring their strategies based upon pre-existing educational performance. The study offers a four step model to overcome this which include resilience, reenrollment, recovery, and reimagining.