Pandemic to push more children into learning poverty

Published by rudy Date posted on November 1, 2021

by Louise Maureen Simeon, The Philippine Star, 1 Nov 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The pandemic will push more children into learning poverty, especially in low and middle income countries like the Philippines, due to the prolonged closure of educational institutions, according to the World Bank.

Based on the preliminary analysis of an upcoming World Bank report, learning poverty in many countries could reach around 70 percent.

Learning poverty is defined as being unable to read and understand a simple text by age 10.

“This rise is a result of the prolonged school closures and poor learning outcomes despite government efforts to deliver remote learning,” the Washington-based World Bank said.

“In many of these countries, schools have been closed for as many as 200 to 250 days, and many have yet to reopen,” it said.

Unfortunately, the situation in the Philippines is much worse as schools have been shut for 18 months now.

Globally, schools were forced to close down due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year, but many countries have started reopening them since early this year.

The Philippines, alongside Venezuela, are the only two countries in the world where schools remain shut for in-person learning.

It is only this November that the government will pilot face-to-face classes to avert further learning losses.

The World Bank estimates an increase of 17 percentage points in learning poverty, worse than the earlier projection of 10 percentage points.

Before the pandemic, learning poverty across the world was already at 53 percent and initially estimated to rise to 63 percent, but new data show an actual rise to 70 percent.

“Hundreds of millions of children have lost at least a full year of schooling due to COVID-19. This pandemic has brought about the largest loss of human capital in living memory and the worst education crisis in a century,” World Bank president David Malpass said.

“It’s vital for children to be in school, especially primary school-age children. The consequences of school closures could be felt for decades and are contributing to even wider inequality, particularly for girls,” he said.

Initial estimates from the National Economic and Development Authority revealed that the continued closure of schools in the country will not only leave long-term scars on students, but will also cost the economy some P11 trillion over the next four decades.

Apart from the trillions of economic losses, a student is also losing some 10 percent in terms of permanent wages in the future due to school closure, the World Bank said. Worse, it estimates that distance learning is equivalent to just 52 percent of in-person learning.

The World Bank emphasized that the pandemic exacerbated inequalities in education, leading to irreversible damage to cognitive, language, and physical development and human capital of children.

World Bank vice president for human development Mamta Murthi argued that the losses in education are one part of the dramatic human capital reversals that are threatening the current generation.

Murthi called on governments to implement ambitious and aggressive plans at scale to recover losses, with a focus on the most disadvantaged populations, particularly girls, children with disabilities, and those from poorer families.

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