New Delhi: Learning losses due to school closures are one of the biggest global threats to long-term recovery from Covid-19. The economic cost will be severe if corrective action is not taken urgently, according to Nobel Laureate Abhijeet Banerjee. He noted that temporary school closures will cause permanent damage. Abhijeet Banerjee said merely reopening schools will not be enough. Not measuring learning losses and taking steps to integrate children back into the system will be a ‘recipe for disaster’.
The noted economist is co-chair of the Global Education Evidence Advisory Panel (GEEAP). The body is working on recommendations for education sector in the post pandemic world. Banerjee won the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economics.
“The short- and long-term impact of the Covid-19 crisis on children’s education, wellbeing, and future productivity is profound. Almost two years after schools began closing in most countries across the world, governments need to take urgent steps to limit the damage. Estimates suggest the economic cost of lost learning from the crisis will be in the trillions of US dollars if corrective action is not urgently taken,” Banerjee told this agency in a telephonic interview from Massachusetts in the US.
“While many other sectors have rebounded when lockdowns ease, the damage to children’s education is likely to reduce children’s wellbeing and productivity for decades, making education disruption and learning losses due to school closures, one of the biggest threats to medium- and long-term recovery from Covid-19 unless governments act swiftly,” Banerjee added.
Banerjee, who is currently a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), said schools need to reopen at first opportunity. “Schools need to reopen and be kept open as far as possible but that is not going to be enough. Addressing the issue of dropouts to ensure they return to school and also having a plan for reintegrating children back into the school system is very important,” asserted the Nobel winner.
“Not measuring learning losses and acting as per the results will be an absolute recipe for disaster. We need to acknowledge that children will definitely fall behind and urgent action needs to be taken to reduce the gap and minimise the earning losses,” Banerjee pointed out.
Launched in July 2020, GEEAP is an independent, cross-disciplinary body composed of leading education experts from around the world. Its mandate is to provide succinct, usable, and policy-focused recommendations to support policymakers’ decision-making on education investments in low- and middle-income countries.
“The third factor that the countries need to work upon urgently is teachers’ training. The teachers already had a tough job and with learning losses, children falling behind and varied learning levels in the classroom makes it more difficult for teachers to help most students catch up. Providing teachers with simple teaching guides combined with strong monitoring and feedback systems can help them structure their pedagogical approach and ensure that children learn effectively. Additional tutoring can also help children catch-up,” Banerjee said.
“In addition to necessitating urgent recovery efforts, the pandemic offers a rare opportunity to rethink and reset education provision so children across all identities, socioeconomic backgrounds and circumstances can learn and thrive,” he added.
Schools across the globe closed in 2020 following the outbreak of novel coronavirus. They have reopened in various countries depending upon the Covid-19 situation. At the peak of the crisis, UNESCO data showed that over 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries were out of school. Over 100 million teachers and school personnel were impacted by the sudden closures of learning institutions.