Back-to-School Campaigns Following Disruptions to Education

Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the largest disruption to schooling since the second world war. At the peak of its impact on education systems, schools were closed in nearly 200 countries with almost 1.5 billion learners affected (UNESCO, 2020). Countries have moved quickly to respond to this crisis. Technologies including print, radio, television, phones, and online have been leveraged to support learning. This has helped to ensure some continuity of education during the pandemic.

While distance education may help limit COVID-19’s negative impact on learners, it is no substitute for school-based education. Recent modelling from the US indicated that three months of school closures may result in learners losing a whole year of learning gains (Tarasawa, 2020). The ramifications in countries where distance learning systems are less robust may be significantly worse.

School closures in low- and middle-income countries are expected to have long-term negative impacts, including increased inequality and decreased health outcomes (UNESCO, UNICEF, World Bank & WFP, 2020). The impact of school closures will be particularly damaging for marginalised students, who are already less likely to be in school. These groups face additional risk factors from being out of school, including violence, sexual abuse, being integrated into child labour schemes, and stress and anxiety. Ensuring children rapidly return to school as soon as it is safe and practical is a crucial next step in supporting children’s learning and life outcomes in these contexts.

This document expands upon guidance and evidence kits developed by the WHO, WFP, Center for Global Development, and IASC Global Education Cluster and Child Protection Global Protection Cluster. Specifically, key themes of effective school re-openings are examined in the context of modalities used to deliver distance learning (e.g., radio, television) and mapped to proposals from the Global Partnership for Education’s first round of COVID-19 funding.

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