Governments must put public education at the center of the post-COVID recovery

published 30 May 2021 updated 30 June 2021

For millions of students around the world, school closures will not represent a temporary interruption to their education but rather the abrupt end of it. This situation and other worrying information was revealed in a report published by the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW), on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education around the world

Child labor, forced marriages or the lack of means to pay school fees in countries where free education is not guaranteed, have all been all determining factors that have led to the education of students around the world being permanently interrupted. Even for students who have returned or will return to school, the data suggest that they will continue to feel the consequences of learning lost during the pandemic for years to come.

The report also points out that the school closures caused by the pandemic have affected each student differently, according to various factors such as socio-economic level or belonging to groups traditionally discriminated against and excluded from education.

In this regard, the heavy reliance on e-learning has exacerbated pre-existing inequities in education. Many governments did not have the policies, infrastructure or resources to develop e-learning in a way that ensured students could participate on equal terms.

In light of these challenges, the report's recommendations to make up for the loss of learning include rebuilding efficient, equitable and quality education systems that are publicly funded and regulated.

Referring to the findings of the HRW report, EI General Secretary David Edwards said:

“Our main task is not to reopen schools at all costs but to address structural weaknesses in public education systems. These problems already existed before the pandemic but have become even more visible and are difficult to accept in a post-COVID world. As education unions, we call on governments to prioritize investment in public education, which must be at the center of post-COVID recovery plans. A better world will only be possible through the transformative power of education."

To prepare its report, HRW interviewed more than 470 students, families and teachers in 60 countries between April 2020 and April 2021.

To view the full report,“Years Don’t Wait for Them” Increased Inequalities in Children’s Right to Education Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic click here.

To access the interactive tool that analyses common barriers to education, exacerbated during the pandemic, click here.