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Education Systems' Response to COVID-19 - Brief June 7th, 2021: Getting Back to Learning

The COVID-19 Global Education Recovery Tracker, sourced by teams across the World Bank, Johns Hopkins, and UNICEF, monitors recovery planning efforts in more than 200 countries and territories. Based on its data, learning modalities across regions shifted in recent weeks with many more countries shifting to hybrid and returning to in-person education.

Figure 1: School Status / Education Modality Across Regions.
Source: World Bank, Johns Hopkins University & UNICEF (2021). COVID-19 Global Education Recovery Tracker Last updated as of 9 May 2021. Baltimore, Washington DC, New York: JHU, World Bank, UNICEF.

Getting Back to Learning - Key Policy Actions Towards Reopening

As we enter the second year of the pandemic, 168 million students have already been out of school for an entire year, and about 214 million have missed more than three-quarters of the school year of their in-person learning. Tracking of school closures is more important than ever as evidenced by the variation and trends in school reopenings and closing (see Annex)

New POLICY ACTION NOTES present key actions to help countries reopen schools and get students back to learning. The Bank’s Education Global Practice has developed a package of short Policy Action Notes that have carefully curated evidence and examples around essential policy actions and outline options for activities related to protecting health and safety in schools, modifying pedagogy to stem learning loss, and improving management to ensure implementation of these policy actions.

Health and Safety
Modifying Pedagogy

With schools’ re-openings students will need tailored and sustained support to help them readjust and catch-up after the pandemic. The COVID-19 Global Education Recovery Tracker ( showcases information on status of schooling, modalities of learning, availability of remedial educational support, and status of vaccine availability for teachers. As of the end of May, a graphs section has been added to illustrate in-person educational supports, as well as remote educational supports available at pre-primary, primary, lower, and upper secondary levels.

Figure 3: In-person and Remote Educational Supports for Students
From left: In-person educational support for pre-primary; remote educational support for primary level. Updated as of May 9, 2021.

The joint WB-JHU-UNICEF team has also recently published a blog, which is the first of a series highlighting key data from the tracker:

(Other) Research and Latest Findings

A new report by the World Bank’s Europe and Central Asia Education team "Learning Recovery after COVID-19 in Europe and Central Asia: Policy and Practice" focuses on specific and timely recommendations to address learning losses. The note presents in depth design and implementation details for a learning recovery plan, which includes three stages: (i) Coping with the closing of schools through remote learning, instructional and psychosocial support, and compensatory programs for preventing learning losses; (ii) Managing Continuity where reopened schools focus on providing foundational skills in language, math, and science to reduce learning loss and to improve learning among minorities and the poor; and (iii) Improving and Accelerating learning, by making schools more resilient and equitable through educational innovations that include the lessons learned from remote instruction during the pandemic, and where the entire system is evaluated for results.

A World Bank report estimates the long-term impacts of schooling disruptions on private returns to schooling in Kuwait. It applies an instrumental variables approach to estimate the private returns to schooling, using unique civil service payroll data, with Kuwaiti students’ exposure to the Gulf War (1990–91) as the instrument. While the results are of interest on their own, they can also prove to be useful in the context of recent efforts to assess the costs of disrupted schooling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some initial studies show important learning losses in developed countries, this study conducts a thorough analysis of recorded learning loss evidence documented between March 2020 and March 2021.

The latest Asian Development Outlook 2021 report highlights the impact of school closures in Asia. Learning losses range from 8% of a learning-adjusted year of schooling in the Pacific, where schools have mostly stayed open, to 55% in South Asia, where school closures have been longest. Learning losses will reduce the future productivity and lifetime earnings of affected students. The present value of these losses is estimated at $1.25 trillion for developing Asia, equivalent to 5.4% of the region’s 2020 gross domestic product (GDP).

School closures have been a common tool in the battle against COVID-19. Yet, their costs and benefits remain insufficiently known. This study uses a natural experiment that occurred as national examinations in The Netherlands took place before and after lockdown to evaluate the impact of school closures on students’ learning. The Netherlands is a “best-case” scenario, with a short lockdown, equitable school funding, and world-leading rates of broadband access. Despite these favorable conditions students made little or no progress while learning from home. Learning loss was most pronounced among students from disadvantaged homes.

Governments should act swiftly to redress the harm caused to children’s education in the wake of the unprecedented disruption from the Covid-19 pandemic, Human Rights Watch said in a report accompanied by an interactive feature, exploring common barriers to education exacerbated during the pandemic.

COVID-19 has changed the way we understand school building ventilation and its importance in keeping us safe from viruses and bacteria in the air. The pandemic has motivated many school leaders to invest in improvements to ventilation systems, but the benefits of investing in a safe learning environment extend far beyond protecting children from the coronavirus. The evidence presented in this paper suggests that pollution exposure is not only a factor in student academic outcomes, but also a major driver of inequality.

World Bank Blogs, Events, and Other Resources

World Bank Blogs

ANNEX: School closures days per country