Since March 2020, schools across the world have either been completely closed, or operated under strict COVID-related restrictions. This has affected 1.6 billion learners globally, resulting in substantial learning losses and plummeting enrollment rates (World Bank, UNESCO, UNICEF 2021). The lockdowns left almost 50 million children in Pakistan and 12 million children in the province of Punjab out of school (Zakaria 2020). By the third school reopenings (September–October 2021), 21% of adolescent boys and 8% of adolescent girls in Punjab had dropped out of school. Those who remained within the schooling system incurred major learning losses. A study by the Punjab Examination Council indicates a decrease in the academic performance of Grade 5 children in Punjab in 2020. With an increase in dropouts and substantial learning losses, there is a need to chart future steps to recovery. This webinar aims to outline how dropouts can be reintegrated into the schooling system and how learning losses can be overcome with an underlying focus on technological and innovative solutions.
There are several reasons for the increase in dropouts.
In addition to the issue of dropouts, COVID-19 has also resulted in learning losses for those that remain within the schooling system. While the government launched a distance learning program early in the pandemic, its uptake has been limited. In Punjab, by the time schools reopened in September–October 2021, only 8% of girls and 2% of boys were engaged in distance learning (Geven et al., 2022). There are multiple reasons for the resistance to remote learning uptake. Some of them are listed below:
As a result of these factors, students have undergone learning losses amounting to around 0.6 years of learning-adjusted schooling, according to early estimates (Geven and Hasan 2020).
Following are some models of recovery adopted in other developing countries.
Tackling Dropouts: To address the issue of increasing drop-outs, several countries have initiated back-to-school campaigns to re-integrate children into the schooling system. In Kenya, community-based household mobilizations led to 96 percent of learners eventually re-enrolling. Additionally, in Mexico and Brazil, governments have adopted conditional cash transfers, tying cash support to families to school enrollment.
Overcoming Learning Losses: Similarly, to overcome learning losses, many countries have adopted some form of remedial learning. In 2020, the Philippines government established summer schooling for students who had received a grade lower than 75 percent in the previous school year. While evidence on the effectiveness of such programs is still limited, interventions that focus on targeted instruction, with extended instruction time and condensed curricula are potential options to be explored for learning recovery (World Bank, 2021).
Building Resilience: School closures are not unique to COVID-19 and are likely to occur in the future as a result of climate-related disasters, conflicts, and public health emergencies. Remote and hybrid education is expected to continue after the pandemic (World Bank 2021). In case of repeated closures, strengthening remote learning systems is key. Many developing countries have employed multimodal strategies to ensure widespread access. In Peru, for example, the authorities have deployed a multi-modal strategy based on an assessment of the availability of different modes of technology and have used multiple channels like radio, television and the internet to stream educational content. Additionally, educational content has been created in nine native languages, making it more widely accessible . Moreover, telecommunication operators agreed to zero-rate the program’s core digital site so that students can access all available educational resources without paying for the bandwidth. This was combined with regular communication of weekly schedules for learning sessions, frequent teacher-student follow-up, and a strong monitoring system to understand the program’s coverage and engagement.
While cross-country examples can shed light on innovative strategies, Pakistan’s recovery strategy needs to be anchored in evidence, with considerations for capacity, budget constraints and other relevant factors.
There are no neat solutions to the losses faced by the education sector in Pakistan during COVID-19 but there are a few areas which require greater focus from policymakers. Some questions to be explored for future interventions are:
This message is only visible to admins.
Problem displaying Facebook posts.
Click to show error