The 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic has affected educational systems worldwide, leading to the widespread closures of schools and universities.
As of 3 April 2020, over 1.7 billion learners were out of school due to school closures in response to COVID-19. According to UNESCO monitoring, over 180 countries have implemented nationwide closures, impacting about 97% of the world’s student population. On 23 March 2020, Cambridge International Examinations released a statement announcing the cancellation of Cambridge IGCSE, Cambridge O Level, Cambridge International AS & A Level, Cambridge AICE Diploma, and Cambridge Pre-U examinations for May/June 2020 series across all countries. International Baccalaureate exams have also been cancelled. The impact was more severe for disadvantaged children and their families, causing interrupted learning, compromised nutrition, childcare problems, and consequent economic cost to families who could not work. In response to school closures, UNESCO recommended the use of distance learning programs and open educational applications and platforms that schools and teachers can use to reach learners remotely and limit the disruption of education.
Efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19 through non-pharmaceutical interventions and preventive measures such as social-distancing and self-isolation have prompted the widespread closure of primary, secondary, and tertiary schooling in over 100 countries. Previous outbreaks of infectious diseases have prompted widespread school closings around the world, with varying levels of effectiveness. Mathematical modeling has shown that transmission of an outbreak may be delayed by closing schools. However, effectiveness depends on the contacts children maintain outside of school. School closures may be effective when enacted promptly. If school closures occur late relative to an outbreak, they are less effective and may not have any impact at all. Additionally, in some cases, the reopening of schools after a period of closure has resulted in increased infection rates.
10 countries have localized schools closures, UNESCO estimates 473,933,356 learners are potentially at risk and 77,938,904 learners are potentially at risk in tertiary education. School closures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have shed a light on numerous issues affecting access to education, as well as broader socio-economic issues. On March 12, more than 370 million children and youth are not attending school because of temporary or indefinite country wide school closures mandated by governments in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. As of 29 March, nearly 90% of the world’s learners were impacted by closures. Even when school closures are temporary, it carries high social and economic costs. The disruptions they cause affect people across communities, but their impact is more severe for disadvantaged children and their families including interrupted learning, compromised nutrition, childcare problems and consequent economic cost to families who cannot work. Working parents are more likely to miss work when schools close in order to take care of their children, incurring wage loss in many instances and negatively impacting productivity.
Localized school closures place burdens on schools as parents and officials redirect children to schools that are open. Lack of access to technology or good internet connectivity is an obstacle to continued learning, especially for students from disadvantaged families. In response to school closures caused by COVID-19, UNESCO recommends the use of distance learning programmes and open educational applications and platforms that schools and teachers can use to reach learners remotely and limit the disruption of education. To aid in slowing the transmission of COVID-19, hundreds of libraries have temporarily closed. In the United States, numerous major cities announced public library closures, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and New York City, affecting 221 libraries. School closures negatively impact student learning outcomes. Schooling provides essential learning and when they close, children and youth are deprived opportunities for growth and development. The disadvantages are disproportionate for under-privileged learners who tend to have fewer educational opportunities beyond school. Schools are hubs of social activity and human interaction. When closing, parents are often asked to facilitate the learning of children at home and can struggle to perform this task.
Recommendations are: Create communities of teachers, parents, and school managers to address sense of loneliness or helplessness, facilitate sharing of experience, discussion when facing learning difficulties.