By Silvia Guallar Artal, Martin Humburg and Nihan Koseleci Blanchy
In the spring of 2020, the education of 1.6 billion children screeched to a halt.
The coronavirus pandemic forced over 190 countries to close schools and to switch – abruptly and bumpily – to remote learning. At the peak of the crisis, more than 85% of students worldwide were out of regular school and, by October 2020, 108 countries reported missing an average of 47 days of in-person instruction – or roughly one-quarter of the school year.
Governments scrambled to replace traditional school with remote learning options, ranging from online platforms to educational television and radio programmes to paper-based packages either physically brought home or disseminated via email. Despite the efforts, 40% of students globally lost all contact with their teachers. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds suffered the most, as they rely on schools for digital equipment and computer skills.
It will be years before we know the economic and social consequences of the school closures and the abrupt switch to remote learning. Some children have thrived, but many others are falling behind. Those learning losses, unless remediated, will have long-term consequences for economic growth and social cohesion. We need to help these children catch up – and make sure their bond with education is not permanently broken. Digital tools can help. They aren’t a panacea, and they need the careful guidance of teachers to be effective. But they can help us bridge the educational gaps created by the pandemic.