Coronavirus and Education: 4 things You Should Know

The pandemic attempts to leave many young people and children out of school, the virtual modality will not be enough to mitigate the educational costs that El Salvador faces

The pandemic worsened many social problems, leaving countries with great public policy challenges. The case of education is no different, the costs of this crisis are very serious and unequal. In a few days, most of the world's educational systems began offering virtual classes. Many were very unprepared for this transition. El Salvador already had great challenges in its digital agenda and educational exclusion prior to the crisis. If nothing is done about it, these problems could get worse.

After a few months with the virus, we know a few things about how the pandemic has affected education systems.

1. Virtual modalities have not been effective to improve learning

Recently studies in Belgium, Netherlands y Germany showed that online classes had no impact on student learning. After doing tests it was shown that the students were not learning at home. In the case of Germany, students with lower performance before the crisis spent less time studying during the pandemic, negatively affecting their learning.

Little is known in El Salvador about the impacts of COVID on education. Unfortunately, the country does not have educational tests at different levels to know the generational educational gap that caused the pandemic. However, it questions whether the efforts have been effective when countries with better education systems have had poor results. The country should consider what could be done to reinforce the educational policy of the following years.

The new challenge for educational policy should be to reduce the learning gap between this generation and previous ones. For this, they should adopt new educational programs that are specifically adapted to the backwardness of these children.

2. The new modality excludes the poorest and most vulnerable

Even if online classes were effective it is difficult to assume that all young people in their homes have internet. In El Salvador, the same president shared a photo of a boy taking a class from a tree, because it seemed to be the only way to get an internet signal. This reality is shared by many other students in El Salvador, which has left many young people out of school during the pandemic.

On the other hand, the lack of internet access is not the only factor that prevents young people from continuing their studies. There are other factors such as not having a computer, educated parents to guide learning, even television and radio. Households with many children could also have problems, in El Salvador it is known that the poorest households tend to have more children. The IDB estimates that in the case of the poorest in El SalvadorThose who earn less than $ 5 a day were considered poor , 8.3% are in this situation.

Unfortunately, we should conclude that these boys did not manage to finish the year or that their learning was not adequate during the quarantine. The Ministry of Education has the great challenge of returning to classes these students can make up what they lost.

3. Some will not return to class

On the other hand, in addition to low learning, COVID could also affect school non-attendance, which was already high before the pandemic. According to the same IDB study, it was estimated that school non-attendance could increase by 17%, the equivalent of 38,000 students leaving schoolBefore the crisis, there were 230 thousand young people and children out of school. Of the young people affected, 33% and 55% will be poor and lower middle class.

The study points to two reasons for the increase in school non-attendance. On the one hand, many young people will be forced to leave school due to the fact that income in their homes will fall and on the other hand, it is known that virtual modalities have a higher dropout rate, something that can be evidenced in virtual modalities (of flexible education prior to the crisis) of the Ministry of Education where the dropout rate reaches up to 50% in some years.

It is estimated that economic reasons will leave approximately 10% of young people out of school and the change to virtual mode will leave 7%.

4. The pandemic will leave a scar on this generation (and not only psychological but economic)

Due to the fact that the labor market will be depressed for a moment, it is estimated that in addition to the educational exclusion some young people will not be able to enter the labor market. This will cause an increase in young people who neither work nor study. The pandemic is estimated to increase the percentage by 16% of those.

Furthermore, it is known that young people who enter the labor market at a bad time have a worse salary throughout their lives. Because they will not find jobs that favor their human development. It is possible that young people in El Salvador will lose approximately 6% of their jobs in the next 20 years due to this reason (this is known as the scar effect).

There are other economic losses due to low learning, Brookings estimated that in the United States for every four months of quarantine, income will be lost in the next 45 years equivalent to the current 12.7% GDP.

It is extremely serious if one considers that in El Salvador the impact could be worse because the population is younger than in other developed and underdeveloped countries. This would mean that most of the population is being deprived of economic opportunities in the future due to the pandemic.

Despite these serious consequences, we still have time to create policies and programs that allow us to mitigate the harmful effects of the pandemic on education. El Salvador can still lessen the harmful effects of the pandemic. The new educational plans will require focusing on the most affected populations and those that could not adapt to the virtual educational modality.

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