Transforming education after the pandemic
While many countries are cautiously reopening classrooms, schools remain crucial barometers of our progress towards ending the Covid-19 crisis. We need to keep children healthy while protecting their right to education, but the pandemic has hit the most vulnerable children hardest and exposed growing inequalities in learning opportunities. We must now heed these hard lessons and transform education systems to make them more equitable, efficient and resilient.
School closures have been one of many measures governments have taken to contain a virus that has so far killed 3.4 million people. At their peak, more than 1.6 billion children were deprived of an education, half of them in low- and lower-middle-income countries.
While we may not yet fully grasp the long-term implications of this lost learning for the hundreds of millions of people who are still out of school, it will clearly have a life-changing impact of the most vulnerable children, especially the most vulnerable. girls. It is estimated that 20 million girls may never set foot in a classroom again because they were sent to work to help support their families. As many as 13 million people could be forced into early marriage and thus give up their studies altogether. For millions more, school closures have increased the risk of teenage pregnancy or domestic violence.
Given this grim reality, every school reopening is a victory that can potentially change children’s lives permanently for the better. But rather than simply reverting to pre-crisis learning approaches, we need to completely transform education systems. We cannot return to a status quo of inequality of opportunity and poor learning outcomes, in which a quarter of a billion children were already out of school and more than half of ten-year-olds in countries low-income people lacked basic reading skills.
Together, we must ensure a global recovery based on education systems that deliver quality learning to all children, no matter where they live, how prosperous or poor their families may be, or who they are. And we need to start by ensuring that children can return safely to schools that provide a clean environment with effective ventilation, adequate toilets and other basic amenities.
Countries can also use distance learning tools to reach children outside of the classroom, opening up new possibilities for educating those who were previously cut off from formal education. School closures due to Covid-19 have only accelerated the need for alternative delivery methods so that every child can continue to learn.
Even before the pandemic, organizations like the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) were helping to enable learning beyond the traditional classroom. In Afghanistan, for example, advanced learning centers and more accessible and equitable community education have proven their worth. These options give children in remote areas, especially girls, who have often been completely excluded from education, a chance to learn.
In the Pakistani provinces of Balochistan and Sindh, we’ve seen how technology, including smartphone apps like WhatsApp, can help teachers serve children in less accessible areas. And Sierra Leone, building on its experience during the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak, has focused on radio learning during the current crisis, with support from GPE enabling children to benefit from educational programs broadcast during school closings.
Initiatives like these can be integrated into education systems to make them more inclusive, so that they provide the learning at the scale needed to address the inequalities of the past. This in turn can help fill the education gaps left not only by the Covid-19 pandemic, but also by conflict, poverty, natural disasters or the effects of climate change.
By channeling support from partner country governments to national education systems, GPE has so far helped send 160 million more children to school, more than half of whom are girls. In addition, GPE funds attract contributions from other donors to leverage the organization’s financial support, in line with national education priorities.
This approach is fundamental to catalyzing the necessary change and implementing it on the scale demanded by today’s educational emergency. To date, 97% of education sector plans supported by GPE include strategies to reach the most marginalized children in low-income countries, especially girls and children with disabilities.
In the aftermath of the pandemic, governments must also find the funds to protect their education systems from shocks for the future. This means not only developing and integrating distance learning options, but also ensuring that schools have proper sanitation facilities and teach basic hygiene. Teachers need to be trained in new methods, and we need to ensure that children who depend on their school for at least one meal a day do not go hungry during a crisis.
To achieve this, we must immediately help the governments of low-income countries to ensure that their education budgets are protected from any belt tightening resulting from the economic fallout from the pandemic. Domestic resources represent the vast majority of education funding, but international support can play a larger role in helping to isolate and expand existing resources. This will allow governments to start reshaping learning even before their countries’ economic rebounds are underway.
This year, GPE calls on governments to pledge at least $ 5 billion to transform children’s education in 90 countries and territories where schools are not only essential for learning, but also essential for well-being and well-being. child safety. Safe, inclusive and quality education can be a springboard for recovery from the pandemic and a buffer against the next crisis.