Global Analysis: COVID-19: Impact on education (Thematic series on education – November 2020)

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Worldwide school closures, alongside other secondary impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, are projected to have far-reaching implications in the short and the long term for children, their families, and their communities. Education is a particularly challenging issue in the context of the pandemic. On the one hand, school environments risk high rates of COVID-19 transmission, and closures are seen as necessary measures to protect public health. On the other hand, the linkages between schools and children’s health, safety, and life prospects are significant.

Therefore, it is not a simple trade-off, but one requiring a nuanced consideration of how schooling benefits children, families, and wider society. Lost schooling is likely to compromise the benefits of education, including future earnings and better job prospects:

• losing access to school, as a protective space, exposes children to abuse and trauma if their homes are unsafe, putting both their physical and mental health at risk

• many families and children will miss out on critical health services and information that are usually available in schools and other learning spaces

• disruptions to school feeding programmes mean that millions of children no longer have access to a regular, nutritious meal

• the economic shock of the pandemic will likely push many children into poverty, increasing risks of malnutrition, stress, protection violations, and child labour – all factors that further restrict their future access to effective learning

• government and donor cuts to education and aid funding may further restrict recovery.

This report seeks to map out the linkages and relationships between education and its short and longterm impacts, and to provide analysis on how these impacts may develop. It uses the term ‘short-term impact’ to describe those impacts emerging in 2020, during the pandemic, and ‘long-term impact’ as those projected to emerge as consequences of the pandemic, from one year in the future up to the next generation. This report is complemented by region/crisis-level reports on COVID-19 and education.