Better three hours too soon than a minute too late, Mrs WilliamsThursday, December 09, 2021
Barely a month a go, when we urged Education Minister Mrs Fayval Williams in this space to “put top university researchers to analyse the education fallout from the pandemic”, we were merely relying on gut instinct and common sense.
“If Mrs Fayval Williams, the minister of education, has not done it yet she needs to hastily put together a team comprising our top university researchers and evaluators to determine the depth of the fallout from almost two years of deficit schooling caused by the COVID-19-related lockdowns.
“Otherwise, we will not know the extent of the damage done to our education product until a few years down the road — when it might then be too late. A full understanding of the potential fallout will allow us to begin the necessary repairs immediately,” we implored in our editorial of November 11, 2021.
Just this week we got hard data putting numbers to the global impact and loss of learning — now being termed 'learning poverty' — from the lockdowns and other restrictions on education systems related to the novel coronavirus pandemic. And the figures are indeed stark.
This generation of students now risks losing US$17 trillion in lifetime earnings in present value, or about 14 per cent of the planet's gross domestic product (GDP) because of pandemic-related school closures, which is more severe than previously thought, and far exceeds the US$10-trillion estimates released just last year.
In low- and middle-income countries, the share of children living in learning poverty — already 53 per cent before the pandemic — could potentially reach 70 per cent, given the long school closures and the ineffectiveness of remote learning to ensure full learning continuity during the closures.
These are the extremely troubling data emanating from the just-released 'The State of the Global Education Crisis: A Path to Recovery' report by three of the most credible global organisations — the World Bank, UNESCO, and UNICEF.
“…Schools remain closed for millions of children, and others may never return to school… And the potential increase of learning poverty might have a devastating impact on future productivity, earnings, and well-being for this generation of children and youth, their families, and the world's economies,” the trio warned.
We don't know Jamaica's share of the US$17 trillion, but we can assume from good sense that it would be relatively alarming.
As we noted in our November editorial: “If nothing else, the widespread vaccine hesitancy has demonstrated the frightening level of ignorance or resistance to science that exists in Jamaica.”
The report might as well have called Jamaica's name in saying: “Children from low-income households, children with disabilities, and girls were less likely to access remote learning than their peers… often due to lack of accessible technologies and the availability of electricity, connectivity, and devices.”
Again, we call on Mrs Williams to mobilise our top researchers and evaluators to dissect the deficiencies in our education system to determine how much we have lost from children being out of school for so long, the impact of the unprecedented downtime on teachers, and so much more.
Time is against us. Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.