Human interaction has historically been essential for the education of all kinds. As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, schools, businesses, and others have scrambled to find solutions to continue growth in a time of heavy restrictions.
The pandemic has impacted education in over 150 countries and changed the lives of over 1.6 billion students. National data shows that children who were learning to read earlier in the pandemic have the lowest math scores and reading proficiency rates in about 20 years. UNICEF has deduced learning losses in countries of all incomes, however, found them especially prominent in areas with more marginalized students.
It is suggested that pandemic-related shutdowns have curtailed students' careers. In Kenya and Nigeria, girls are at higher risk of dropping out and overall dropout rates can range upwards of 35%. Yet, the highest employment-population ratio is among people with a bachelor's degree or higher. Experts assure us it will take much more than an average school day to make up gaps created by the pandemic.
As a result of this major learning deficit, countries have been implementing additional support systems to mitigate future learning losses. Rwanda's government created a national assessment for remedial learning with the goal to identify students at higher risk for grade repetition or dropping out. However, Mozambique focused on a more preliminary approach by beginning the school calendar by catching up with students who were falling behind. When Brazil switched to online learning the schools sent out periodic surveys to test how effective the new learning styles were. They also surveyed teachers to track their perceived responsibility during this time. Nepal found that prioritizing core subjects and adjusting the curriculum was a highly effective strategy. Others adjusted schedules to extend the calendar year, broadened reach using broadcasting services, or offered online tutors. Some countries continued to prioritize in-person teaching despite the smaller class sizes, and as mentioned above targeted programs to identify students who needed help. Despite having the resources, there were many difficulties when enforcing and prioritizing curriculum in an environment that wasn't optimally effective for learning.
As things begin to return to normal, it can be tempting to resume as such, however, it is crucial to acknowledge and act based on this data. Businesses looking to hire these employees with unfinished learning will have to consider their potential knowledge gaps and may even need to implement specialized training. In addition, while there are fewer jobs than before the pandemic, and hourly pay has risen, job openings are surprisingly at a record high. Some workers may be looking to ditch the 9-5 lifestyle or expect more flexible options. The pandemic has highlighted some fragility in our day-to-day systems along with the innate desire for human interaction. Overnight businesses, like schools, may be forced to change or reevaluate their current structure. After this pandemic, they will be expected to move forward minimizing risks, including learning loss.
There will be multiple hurdles in regaining the lost knowledge as a result of the pandemic. Schools face difficulties hiring teachers and students allocating the extra time it may take to learn. In an attempt to curb this loss, the federal government has made the largest investment in American education by budgeting $122 billion in recovery.
As experts and officials attempt to mitigate this loss, the lasting effects continue to be uncovered and understood. The success of learning recovery will depend on continued actions taken by countries to learn from others' successes. For schools, this crisis questions what unique opportunities will be considered or not when reintegrating the traditional school model. For businesses, it opens areas of opportunity with the traditional work structure. Flexible work-life balance, added health benefits, and possibly even increased pay will not only be considered but be necessary for recruitment and retention.