The Impacts of COVID-19 on Learning Losses in the Asia-Pacific Region
By: Maziar Jafary
Disclaimer: The views are those of the author's alone and do not represent the views of UNA-Canada.
My name is Maziar, and I am a Junior Professional Consultant working remotely with the UNESCO Bangkok office, which serves as UNESCO’s regional bureau for education in the Asia-Pacific region. In this blog post, I'd like to speak about one of the most important preoccupations of the section for which I work, (“inclusive quality education” section and more specifically, the “quality education team”) which consists of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on learning losses in the Asia-Pacific region.
Although many people primarily consider COVID-19 to be a health crisis, its implications go far beyond affects on public health. Lockdowns and movement restrictions around the world have largely impacted global education systems in different ways. In what follows, I will review these elements and in the end I will discuss possible solutions to build back a better future for education post-pandemic.
UNESCO Bangkok has been heavily involved in reporting on educational impacts of the pandemic on schools in the Asia Pacific region
The major impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in education systems around the world has been school closures and significant reductions in school attendance. Although for developed countries, remote teaching has largely facilitated the continuity of education, many children in low- and middle- income countries lack the necessary digital resources for remote learning. These children endure the burden of considerable losses of schooling which, as studies suggest, would also harm their lifelong incomes in the future. In the Asia-Pacific region, there are huge inequalities within and between countries in terms of the population’s access to digital means. Still, some civil society actors in countries such as Pakistan, India and Bangladesh are attempting to further engage families and communities (especially in rural areas) so that they can compensate for the lack of digital means and access to children’s education.
Another important element of learning loss is the quality of remote teaching. In this vein, the quality of education in remote learning proves to be lower than face-to-face trainings. Many countries in the Asia-Pacific region have had major challenges in terms of children’s learning poverty (i.e. lack of basic competencies in literacy and numeracy) even before the pandemic; and the latter has exacerbated this already existing problem.
Finally, it should be reiterated that cultivating resilience in education systems is the essential element to build a better future for education around the world. Resilience implicates not only building capacity for remote learning simultaneously as in-class education, but also encouraging innovations in teaching methods. As I mentioned previously, probably the most important criterion of such innovations would be the involvement of other stakeholders such as families and communities in children's learning. Such involvements can offer huge opportunities, and at the same time, can make education systems more resilient in time of crises like COVID-19 pandemic.