COVID-19 school closures may turn into lifelong learning losses if schools follow their usual curricula when they reopen.

RISE research on COVID-19

As education systems worldwide have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, RISE has been applying systems thinking to determine how we can ensure that children can continue to learn during and after this crisis.

To explore our rich variety of blogs, working papers, and insight notes on COVID-19, see our list of all COVID-19 research outputs.

Implications of the 2005 Pakistan earthquake for COVID-19 school closures

One significant output of RISE's COVID-19 effort is our working paper Human Capital Accumulation and Disasters: Evidence from the Pakistan Earthquake of 2005, which examines student learning in the wake of the 2005 Pakistan earthquake and shows the potential long-term effects of disaster-related school closures.

The paper found that:

  1. Although affected children were out of school for an average of only 14 weeks due to the earthquake, four years later their test scores were 1.5 to 2 years behind those of their unaffected peers;
  2. Children of mothers who had completed primary schooling were fully protected from these learning losses, meaning that the disaster exacerbated existing inequalities.

A RISE Insight Note, We Have to Protect the Kids, and a blog, COVID-19 is Poised to Exacerbate the Learning Crisis, Evidence from Long-term School Closures in Pakistan, examine these results further.

How can education systems mitigate learning losses from the COVID-19 school closures?

To prevent long-term learning losses, education systems must recognise that when children return to school after closures, they will be behind their "expected" learning level. Continuing with the usual curriculum expectations will result in additional learning loss, as children will be behind the level of instruction and will continue to fall further behind.

It is essential that education systems adapt instruction to children's ability levels upon returning to school.

RISE pieces that explore mitigation solutions further include these Insight Notes: