International Day of Education – Up to 70% of children in developing countries can no longer read?
– “If we don’t act, the proportion of children who leave school in developing countries who cannot read could rise from 53% to 70%.”
The alarm bell was sounded by the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, in his message on the occasion of the International Day of Education, celebrated on January 24, 2022.
In fact, some 1.6 billion students and college students saw their education interrupted at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic — and counting is not over yet, Guterres said, adding that today , school closures continue to disrupt the lives of more than 31 million students, “exacerbating a global learning crisis.”
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the World Bank and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have quantified the economic dimension of this tragedy.
“This generation of students is now at risk of losing US$17 trillion in lifetime earnings in present value terms, or about 14% of current global gross domestic product (GDP), due to pandemic-related school closures. COVID-19.
The State of the Global Education Crisis: A Path to Recovery report, published in December 2021, shows that in low- and middle-income countries, the share of children living in learning poverty – already 53% before the pandemic – could potentially reach 70 given the long school closures and the ineffectiveness of remote learning to ensure full learning continuity during school closures.
Simulations estimating that school closures caused significant learning losses are now supported by real data, according to the report from the global tri-agencies.
And he provides some specific examples: regional evidence from Brazil, Pakistan, rural India, South Africa and Mexico, among others, show substantial losses in math and reading.
The analysis shows that in some countries, on average, learning losses are roughly proportional to the duration of closures. However, there was great heterogeneity between countries and according to subject, socio-economic status of students, gender and grade level.
“For example, results from two states in Mexico show significant learning losses in reading and math for students aged 10 to 15. Estimated learning losses were greater in mathematics than in reading and disproportionately affected young learners, students from low-income backgrounds, as well as girls.
Education inequalities, exacerbated
Learning to read is an important step in the life of every child. Reading is a fundamental skill, the report explains, adding that all children should be able to read by the age of 10. Reading is a gateway to learning as a child progresses through school – and conversely, an inability to read limits opportunities for later learning.
“Beyond that, when children cannot read, it is usually a clear indication that school systems are not well organized to help children learn in other areas such as math, science and neither do the humanities.
And while it’s possible to learn later in life with enough effort, children who can’t read by age 10 – or at the latest by the end of primary school – usually don’t master the language. reading later in their school career.
Even before COVID-19 disrupted education systems around the world, it was clear that many children around the world were not learning to read properly, according to the report. Although the majority of children are in school, a large number do not acquire basic skills.
“Furthermore, 260 million children are not even in school. It is the vanguard of a learning crisis that threatens countries’ efforts to build human capital and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
No human capital
Without foundational learning, students often fail to thrive later in school or when they enter the workforce.
“They are not acquiring the human capital they need to propel their careers and their economy once they leave school, or the skills that will help them become engaged citizens and raise healthy and prosperous families. . It is important to note that a lack of foundational literacy skills in the early years can lead to intergenerational transmission of poverty and vulnerability.
As a major contributor to human capital deficits, the learning crisis undermines sustainable growth and poverty reduction.
To highlight this crisis, the World Bank and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics have jointly developed the concept of learning poverty and an accompanying indicator.
“Learning poverty means being unable to read and understand simple text by the age of 10.”
Worsening global learning crisis
COVID-19 is now wreaking havoc on the lives of young children, students and youth. The disruption to societies and economies caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is aggravating the global learning crisis and having an unprecedented impact on education.
Learning from poverty to increase
With more than a full year of schooling lost in many parts of the world, learning poverty is estimated at 63% in developing countries.
UNESCO declares that this fourth International Day of Education is marked “as our world stands at a crossroads: gaping inequalities, a damaged planet, growing polarization and the devastating impact of the global pandemic place us before a generational choice: Continue on an unsustainable path or drastically change course.
Education is key to charting a path to greater justice and sustainability, but it “is failing millions of children, youth and adults, increasing their exposure to poverty, violence and abuse. exploitation”, adds UNESCO.
Education, a human right
And here is a necessary reminder: the right to education is enshrined in article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Declaration calls for “free and compulsory elementary education”.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted in 1989, goes further by stipulating that countries “shall make higher education accessible to all”.
“Education offers children a ladder out of poverty and a path to a promising future.”
But around 258 million children and adolescents worldwide do not have the opportunity to enter or complete school, and 617 million children and adolescents cannot read or do basic mathematics. …
And less than 40% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa complete lower secondary school and some four million refugee children and youth are out of school.
“Their right to education is violated and it is unacceptable,” warns the UN.
“Without inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong opportunities for all, countries will fail to achieve gender equality and break the cycle of poverty that leaves millions of children behind. , young people and adults.