Published: 07th July 2022
More than 1 billion students 'unable to learn' because of the pandemic: UN reports
The report by the Secretary-General of the UN on the progress towards the Sustainability Development Goals for 2030 highlights the impact of the pandemic on education as well
According to data released by the United Nations (UN), almost 91% of students worldwide were unable to learn because of school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic in the last two years. That amounts to 1.6 billion children around the world. School closures during the pandemic also put in peril 396 million children who relied on meals provided in schools for their nutritional needs.
These numbers were shared by speakers at the High-Level Political Meet of the Economic and Social Council of the UN. Haoyi Chen of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs Statistics Division presented highlights from the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres' report on the progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. She said that the longer students are out of school, the less likely they are to return.
"School closures brought on by the pandemic have had devastating consequences for children’s learning and well-being. It is estimated that 147 million children missed more than half of their in-class instruction over the past two years. This generation of children could lose a combined total of $17 trillion in lifetime earnings in present value," says the report by the Secretary-General.
The report also delved into the disproportionate effect that the pandemic had on the education of girls, children from financially disadvantaged backgrounds and rural areas, children with disabilities and children from ethnic minority backgrounds.
While the participation rate in organised education increased, albeit unevenly across countries, from 69 per cent in 2010 to 75 per cent in 2020, these numbers are now being threatened as children in early grades of schooling, especially from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, are in danger of losing out on education given the fact that they have been partially or entirely out of school in the last two years.
At the High-Level Political meeting, speakers emphasised the "dynamic" role played by Goal 4, which is quality education for all, in realising the other goals of sustainability.
The report by the Secretary-General highlights the work still left to be done to remove gender inequalities in education. It also suggests that countries are found wanting when it comes to providing skill-based education. "Based on data for 2017–2020, in only 10 per cent of countries could more than 70 per cent of individuals carry out one of the activities that compose basic skills in the last three months such as sending an email with an attachment. In only 15 per cent of countries do more than 40 per cent of people have standard skills such as creating an electronic presentation using presentation software," says the report.