How COVID-19 school closures could affect inequality in decades to come

How COVID-19 school closures could affect inequality in decades to come

PLOS ONE (2022). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0277113″ width=”800″ height=”425″/>

Duration of school closures. Credit: PLOS ONE (2022). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0277113

School closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic have affected learning to varying degrees in different countries. A new study sheds light on what this learning loss will mean for countries’ human capital in decades to come.

Education is a human right and ensuring access to quality education for all is the fourth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG4) set by the United Nations General Assembly. Although there is evidence that more children and young people around the world have access to education, according to some indicators, the quality is declining when looking at acquired skills such as literacy or numeracy.

Further research on educational attainment and acquired skills is essential to see how recent trends, such as school closures in the COVID-19 pandemic, are affecting the workforce. A new study published in PLOS ONE projected adult skills to 2050 while measuring the effect of pandemic school closures on these skills.

“The projection of human capital, i.e. the economic value of a person’s experience and skills, gives us insight into the future status of societies, especially the workforce, whose skills are essential for jobs that contribute to economic growth and development prospects,” says Claudia Reiter. , a researcher with IIASA’s Social Cohesion, Health and Wellbeing Research Group and co-author of the study. “It also influences people’s ability to innovate in the face of many challenges in the future, such as climate change.”

The study uses the SLAMYS (Skills in Literacy Adjusted Mean Years of Schooling) indicator, which combines length of schooling with a factor based on adult literacy test scores. The researchers applied the measure to the working-age population in 45 countries and looked at five-year intervals to 2050 under various population scenarios, incorporating COVID-19 school closures into the models.

“Our study provides for the first time projections of future human capital that capture both quantitative and qualitative dimensions, with clear relevance to progress towards development goals,” says co-author Dilek Yildiz, a research fellow at from IIASA’s Migration and Sustainable Development Research Group.

The study showed that the adult skills gap between countries in the North and countries in the South is likely to continue to exist by 2050, even under very optimistic assumptions. However, the gap can widen or narrow depending on specific developmental trajectories.

The researchers also found that the loss of learning due to school closures during the pandemic is likely to further worsen inequalities between countries. The skills acquired by students have been particularly affected in countries where schools have been closed for an extended period and where the infrastructure for effective online teaching is lacking.

“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to erase decades of adult skill gains for affected cohorts unless policies to mitigate learning loss are implemented immediately,” notes Anne Goujon. , director of IIASA’s Population and Just Societies program, who was also a study co-author. “This could seriously jeopardize the achievement of SDG4 in many countries and therefore requires additional efforts beyond those already required to successfully progress towards the goal.”

More information:
Caner Özdemir et al, Projections of adult skills and the effect of COVID-19, PLOS ONE (2022). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0277113

Provided by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

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