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Coronavirus causes learning losses

Published:Thursday | May 21, 2020 | 12:23 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer

AN ANALYSIS by the World Bank’s Education Global practice has shown that some Caribbean countries are off track to meet the global learning goals.

“Even before the COVID pandemic, we were already faced with a very serious challenge in education, which is a global learning crisis. Too many students are going to school but not learning,” said economist Shawn Powers.

School closures present a logical solution to enforcing social distancing within communities, but prolonged closures tend to have a disproportionately negative impact on the most vulnerable students.

For some students across the region, learning has stopped completely.

“Early-childhood education will suffer the most, since for children under the age of eight, replicating the school experience is most difficult through distance-learning methodologies,” he said at a University of the West Indies Faculty of Medical Sciences teleconference on Sunday.

Students are at risk of learning loss as 25 per cent of what they learn is usually lost in the summer, and in the context of COVID-19, the school break may be longer.

More dropouts

The economist is concerned that attachment to schooling will fall, resulting in fewer students enrolling and more dropouts.

The medium-term impact of the pandemic is projected to affect learning from varying angles.

“There will be a likely increase in student dropout, especially for the families that are most economically vulnerable – those hardest hit by COVID. Given the effects on employment and incomes, we are likely to see decreased expenditure by households on educational supplies and on school fees,” he shared.

Out of economic necessity, families may make the switch from private to public schools.

Speaking in Parliament recently, Opposition Spokesperson on Education Peter Bunting warned that a failure by the Government to bail out cash-strapped preparatory and private high schools could result in their closure.

Bunting explained that it could create chaos in September when schools reopen, with thousands of students needing to be absorbed in public institutions.

“There are risks to the quality of education, if, as may happen, there is pressure in the coming years on education budgets as governments try to cope with potentially less revenue.”

Following the global financial crisis of 2008 to 2011, education spending was reduced by an average of four per cent in the United States.