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A Better Education for All During—and After—the COVID-19 Pandemic

Help children learn amid erratic access to schools

Five years into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the world is nowhere near to ensuring a quality education for all by 2030. Impressive gains in enrollment and attendance over recent decades have not translated into corresponding gains in learning. The World Bank’s metric of “learning poverty,” which refers to children who cannot read and understand a simple text by age 10, is a staggering 80 percent in low-income countries.

The COVID-19 crisis is exacerbating this learning crisis. As many as 94 percent of children across the world have been out of school due to closures. Learning losses from school shutdowns are further compounded by inequities, particularly for students who were already left behind by education systems. Many countries and schools have shifted to online learning during school closures as a stop-gap measure. However, this is not possible in many places, as less than half of households in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) have internet access.  

Many education systems around the world are now reopening fully, partially, or in a hybrid format, leaving millions of children to face a radically transformed educational experience. As COVID-19 cases rise and fall during the months ahead, the chaos will likely continue, with schools shutting down and reopening as needed to balance educational needs with protecting the health of students, teachers and families.

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