Reopening Schools After COVID-19 Closures

Reopening Schools After COVID-19 Closures

By Jishnu Das, Partha Mukhopadhyay, and TASK FORCE MEMBERS
The Lancet COVID-19 Commission India Task Force
15 April 2021

The education sector has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. By April 2020, governments across 195 countries shut down schools in a preemptive effort to reduce transmission and protect their students, teachers, and staff, impacting the lives of almost 1.6 billion children, youth, and their families.1 One estimate from The World Bank suggests that this generation of children could potentially lose an estimated USD 10 trillion globally in their life earnings.2 This could potentially increase the Learning Poverty levels to 63% and drive countries even further off-track from achieving their Learning Poverty goals.3,4 The estimated economic loss for South Asia due to school closure is projected between USD 622 billion to USD 880 billion in its best and worst case scenario.5 These projected losses reflect potentially significant declines in the accumulation of skills due to both increased dropouts and lower test scores. As children with lower test scores are less likely to progress to higher levels, these losses will increase over time.6 In India alone, an estimated 1.4 million anganwadis (government-run child nutrition and early childhood education centres), 55,000 private pre-primaries, 1.5 million K-12 schools, 41,901 colleges and 1,028 universities have been sporadically shut for over 11 months, disrupting learning, and incurring economic losses estimated at over USD 400 billion in the country’s future earnings.