As schools opt for online classes in times of Covid-19, UNESCO has flagged concerns of exclusion of a large number of students, mostly due to lack of access to technology.
The global education body said distance learning during the pandemic was an “imperfect substitute for classroom instruction” and urged countries to devise methods to make imparting of education more inclusive.
“Overall, the setback on learning is expected to be considerable, although its magnitude is difficult to pin down,” UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report said.
It said depending on the structure of the academic year, school closures had affected their calendars, teacher training, and licensing schedules, besides examinations.
“Rethinking the future of education is all the more important following the Covid-19 pandemic, which further widened and put the spotlight on inequalities. Failure to act will hinder the progress of societies,” Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO said.
The report said the Covid-19 crisis has shown that the issue was not just about technical solutions to tackle the digital divide.
“Although distance learning has captured many headlines, only a minority of countries have the basic infrastructure to focus on the pedagogical challenges of online approaches to teaching and learning. Most children and youth have suffered a short-term direct, but hopefully temporary, loss of learning,” it said.
“Many low and middle-income countries have not been able to support learners at risk of exclusion during the Covid-19 pandemic. Governments need to take a close look at the inclusion challenges to rebuild education systems that are better and accessible to all learners,” the report said.
According to the UNESCO estimates, over 154 crore students are severely impacted by the closure of educational institutions across the world amid the Covid-19 outbreak, owing to which girls will be the worst hit as it will lead to increased dropout rates and further entrench gender gaps in education.