🧮🎒 Data Corner: Covid's Impact on Schools

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Hello folks! Daniel here. Welcome to another monthly edition of Data Corner. A few weeks ago I had a conversation with a teacher friend in Canada. She told me about all the chaos and disruption she’d experienced on the ground over the past year, from not knowing where she’d have to teach on a daily basis, to the fear that she and most other teachers would have to teach in-person without even been vaccinated. When did teachers stop being key workers?

My friend’s story is shared among teachers and education workers around the world, so today’s focus is on the impact Covid-19 has had on world education. Agreed, this won’t solve my friend’s problems, but perhaps you guys can take the data we’ve gathered and use it to shed light on these forgotten heroes shaping and moulding our next generation. And who better to feature the best datasets than our awesome data specialist, Mirela…. 💁👩‍💻

Covid-19 Datasets

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Hey folks, Mirela here taking over… Following on from Daniel, schools and universities were among the first places to close, and no matter how much data we collect, its impact may never be fully understood. The closures aren’t solely a matter of education, but also development of social skills and wellbeing.

In most cases, the data paints a pessimistic picture, essentially one of inequality: Students from low-income backgrounds have experienced disproportionate gaps in their education compared to their peers from high-income backgrounds. With that said, let’s get started…

Covid-19 Datasets

School Closures

At its peak last April, around 1.5 billion students from 166 countries were affected by Covid-19, which amounted to 84.5 percent of the world’s total learners. I’m sure the majority of you guys know someone who had to attend classes from home or went without internet (more on that next), if not yourselves. That’s not to mention the parents and carers who dealt with the extra strain of having to entertain, and in some cases home school, their children.

The below interactive map from UNESCO tracks school closures all the way back to March 2020. While 10 percent of the world’s learners are still impacted in some way, fortunately the trend is headed downward.

Internet Connectivity

Much criticism was thrown at the education sector, from teachers complaining too much to schools not having a contingency plan for the worst pandemic in a century. Getting students to actively engage in the classroom is difficult enough, so what many critics fail to consider is the incredibly difficult task of getting those same students to learn through a computer screen for the first time. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that large numbers of students, even from some of the wealthiest countries in Europe and North America, have a lack of access to the internet at home.

UNICEF’s below scatterplot shows how internet access varies greatly according to country and region, with the likes of West and Central Africa, and South Asia having the lowest numbers of children with home internet access.

Last Time on Data Corner 🧮 

Data Corner March: One Year of Covid-19

Data Corner — February

Data Corner  January

Data Corner  2020

Remote Learning Methods

While most countries have undergone remote learning, the methods schools have employed also vary greatly, including online courses, video classes, electronic textbooks, radio broadcasts and television shows. The below bar chart illustrates how choice of technology correlates with a country’s income level. For example, visual mediums have been hugely popular in upper-middle income countries, while low-income students have had to settle on non-visual methods such as radio broadcasts.

Learning Loss by Income Group

Further data from UNICEF shows that it’s not just technology that’s different across income groups, but also the actual time spent learning remotely. The pandemic robbed many low-income children of almost four months of schooling, compared to, albeit still very impactful, six weeks of lost education for their counterparts from high income countries. Not to mention that the pandemic is still ongoing, and it will likely take years to fully understand the detrimental impact that missing so much school will have on our next generation.

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School Closures vs New Cases

We’ll end things in India, whose cases and deaths are spiralling out of control, and much of what we’ve already discussed pertaining to school closures and loss of education is only just beginning…

Data from Insights for Education pits school closures against new cases, and is a great way of seeing which countries’ school closures have been determined by rising or falling cases. As you can see from India’s latest tidal wave, there doesn’t seem to be much correlation at all…

That’s all for today. See you tomorrow for another edition of Inside The Middle East! 🌍 👋