looking back and moving forward in post-COVID19 learning recovery

The experience of the pandemic can serve as a catalyst to improve the education of all children. Photo credit: Shutterstock

We mark the fourth international day of education grappling with the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our current generation of learners , which at the height of school closures disrupted the learning of more than 1.6 billion children and young people around the world. We are living in a “crisis within a crisis”.

In January 2021, we commemorated the day with a blog by World Bank Managing Director Mari Pangestu: “Harnessing the Promise of Innovation in Education” in which she sounded the alarm about the impacts of the current crisis and underlined the opportunities offered by innovative approaches. to provide distance education during the pandemic. A related report: Urgent and effective action is required to stifle the impact of COVID-19 on education around the world – already at the time highlighted the huge potential learning losses and called for urgent action to address these impacts and invest in rebuilding more efficient, equitable and resilient education systems.

A lot has happened in 12 months, but two things are now abundantly clear: (i) the learning losses and the resulting social and economic costs are substantial; (ii) Urgent and ambitious action is needed to recoup losses and accelerate learning.

At the end of 2021, the evidence of the unprecedented scale of the education crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic was indisputable. In our municipality State of the Education Crisis Report, with UNESCO and UNICEF, we have updated our estimates of the economic costs of learning losses: this generation stands to lose $17 trillion in lifetime income (in present value terms), or about 14% of current global GDP, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. school closures and economic shocks. This new projection far exceeds our $10 trillion estimates published in 2020. In addition, in low- and middle-income countries, the proportion of children living in Learning poverty – already 53% before the pandemic – could reach 70% given the long school closures and the inefficiency of distance learning to ensure the continuity of learning for young children. The latest data also indicate that a catastrophe of inequality is unfolding: between generations, socio-economic groups, places and between countries.

A chorus of voices internationally are sounding the alarm for policy makers to act now and decisively. At the end of 2021, outgoing UNICEF Director Henrietta Fore and World Bank Group President David Malpass delivered a powerful message to reverse education losses due to the pandemic, and highlighted than by investing in learning recovery and using technology wisely, we can turn the challenges and lessons of the pandemic into a catalyst for achieving the SDG goal of quality education for all children .

We enter the third year of the pandemic armed with new data and lessons on how countries are ensuring continued learning and recovery amid the spread of the highly contagious variant of Omicron, as well as advice and updated tools to: reopen and keep schools open safely, make remote learning more effective, measure learning loss and assess remote learning, support teachers, and develop and implement strong and inclusive evidence-based learning recovery plans. Our education team, together with several partners, has actively contributed to the global knowledge base in this area. Below is a highly selected compilation of links to these resources.

As our teams and policymakers leverage this knowledge to implement aggressive measures to get all students back to school and roll out ambitious learning recovery programs, we cannot forget to listen to the advice and lessons learned shared by the learners themselves. Last year, more than 400 high school students from 62 countries on all continents, from diverse social, cultural and economic backgrounds, told us about their learning experience during COVID-19 and shared their ideas on how to enhance the learning experience. Again, we want to hear from you.

In the meantime, allow me to share my own findings on what it takes to recover from this crisis and rebuild better, effective, equitable and resilient education systems:

  1. In order realizing the future of learning where learning does not stop at school walls, we must be guided by the fact that children learn best when they experience joy, rigor and purpose in the learning process. Resilience and equity in education are two sides of the same coin. Distance learning must harness the power of connectivity and meaningful two-way interactions between teachers and learners, and must engage and support parents as partners to ensure both continuity of learning and well-being. socio-emotional being of children, especially in the early years.
  2. Although not a magic bullet, education technology can be an effective tool to expand access to learning inside and outside the classroom, creating more resilient systems that personalize learning in school and beyond. To realize this potential, investments in EdTech must be embedded in broad and sustainable policies and programs that enable schools and education systems to accelerate learning, with a ruthless focus on equity. Digital learning should serve as a great equalizer, rather than what it has been: a great divider.
  3. All efforts should be aimed at improve teacher effectiveness, through constant and effective feedback on how to improve their pedagogy, structured lesson plans and strategies to develop social-emotional skills and to assess learning in the classroom. This support should include the expansion of their access and ability to use technology, including the technical and pedagogical skills necessary for effective distance learning.
  4. We need to ending the learning data crisis. Collect data and build national capacity to assess that learning is actually happening and track progress, understand the drivers of learning, and improve management and delivery through feedback mechanisms.
  5. As countries use data and evidence to design more effective policies, they must also strive to invest and improve their capacity to implement them and deliver services, while leveraging partnerships. Without proper implementation, good policies will remain good intentions. Local capacities must be harnessed through cooperation at all levels of government as well as through partnerships between the public and private sectors.

Featured Compilation knowledge resources with tips and lessons learned during the pandemic:


  • The global education crisis – even worse than expected, 4 January 2022
  • #AfricaACTs on education: The future of children in West and Central Africa is being shaped in today’s schools, 13 December
  • The State of the Global Education Crisis: A Path to Recovery, 11 December
  • Reclaiming Learning: From Emergency Response to Rebuilding Better Education for the Future, 9 December
  • Accelerating Recovery: How Students and Systems are Tackling the New Normal in Education (MENA), December 9
  • Protecting and Strengthening Africa’s Human Capital, December 1
  • How COVID-19 is exacerbating inequality of opportunity in Latin America, 23 November
  • Five lessons from remote learning during COVID-19, November 18
  • The Urgency to Focus on Foundational Skills, November 8
  • 7 Steps to Facilitate Effective Individual Support for Teachers, October 28
  • The Kids Are Not Well: Three Ways EdTech Can Support Student Wellbeing During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond, October 7
  • There will be no recovery without empowered, motivated and effective teachers, October 5
  • Coach: Improving the professional development of in-service teachers, September 15
  • The massive, but invisible cost of keeping schools closed, August 26
  • How can young children best be supported and protected during COVID-19? Some Lessons Learned, June 22
  • Transforming the way teachers use technology, June 2
  • Resuming Learning: Key Policy Actions for Reopening Schools, 27 May
  • Regional Priorities for Skills and Technical Education in Eastern Caribbean States Amid COVID-19, 13 May
  • COVID-19 highlights urgency for TVET reforms, 15 April
  • Mission: Reviving Education 2021, March 29
  • It’s time to get back to learning, March 24
  • The urgency and the opportunity to resume learning, January 24





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