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What have we learnt? Overview of findings from a survey of ministries of education on national responses to COVID-19 (October 2020)

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

As part of the coordinated global education response to the COVID-19 pandemic, UNESCO, UNICEF and the World Bank have conducted a Survey on National Education Responses to COVID-19 School Closures. In this joint report, we analyse the results of the first two rounds of data collection administered by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS). They cover government responses to school closures from pre-primary to secondary education. The first round of the survey was completed by Ministry of Education officials of 118 countries between May and June 2020, and the second round from 149 countries between July and October 2020. The survey instrument was designed to capture de jure policy responses and perceptions from government officials on their effectiveness, providing a systematic understanding of deployed policies, practices, and intentions to date.

MONITORING AND MITIGATING LEARNING LOSSES FROM SCHOOL CLOSURES

The duration of school closures varies greatly between countries. Beyond tracking the number of days of in-person teaching and learning lost, some countries are also making efforts to measure the extent of learning lost during school closures. As schools reopen, countries are also introducing supports to remediate this learning loss.

  1. Lost opportunities for learning: Overall, 108 countries reported missing an average of 47 days of in-person instruction due to school closures by the time of the survey,3 equivalent to approximately one quarter of a regular school year. Countries where the academic year was still ongoing at the time of the survey reported more days of instruction lost (54 days) on average compared to those where the academic year had finished at the time of the survey (40 days).

  2. Learning Assessments: While most countries (86 per cent) reported that student learning is being monitored by teachers, there are large differences across income groups. Only 3 per cent of high-income countries reported that student learning progress is not tracked by teachers, compared to around a quarter of low- and lower-middle-income countries. As schools reopen, most countries reported assessing or planning to assess students through school-based assessments but not in a systemwide way. At the primary level specifically, the vast majority of countries did not perform or were not planning systemwide assessments, either nationally or sub-nationally, as schools reopen. This will impede their ability to measure learning losses comprehensively and against expected student learning trajectory.

  3. Reopening support to remediate learning loss: Most countries which responded the survey (84 per cent) introduced additional support programmes to remediate learning loss as schools were reopening. Across all income groups, but particularly among low-income countries, this most frequently took the form of remedial programmes to help -at least a proportion of- students catch up. Meanwhile, one in four high-income countries were not introducing any additional support measures. While high-income countries were also more likely to consider remote learning a substitute to official school days (as discussed further in the report), school closures can lead to learning losses and widen the achievement gap even in high-income settings.

DEPLOYING EFFECTIVE DISTANCE LEARNING STRATEGIES

As schools closed around the world to limit the spread of COVID-19, governments moved quickly to offer remote learning options, including through online platforms, television, radio and paper-based take-home packages. Recognizing that these options are not equally available to all, countries also made efforts to boost access to these platforms and to support teachers and parents/caregivers.