Impact of Covid-19 on the Education Sector of the Economy
If you are a school or college student, you might have rejoiced a bit when the very first lockdown was announced leading to the closure of all the academic institutions for a period of about a month. That was the time when this pandemic was in its starting phase and you might have celebrated this feeling of having an extended vacation like many others did that time.
Well, at that time no one could see what was coming. The entire focus of the world was on containing the spread of the virus at any cost, be it economic and social. Only if we could quantify the magnitude of loss at that time!
Today, the novel coronavirus is about to complete its first anniversary and as different organizations are trying to quantify the impact of the virus, it seems many countries have gone decades back in terms of their economic development. While there are many factors that factor into it, we will be focusing on the education sector in this article.
As the sudden closure of educational institutions was announced, no teaching at all happened during the first few months in many institutions. According to the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the COVID-19 pandemic has affected more than 91% of students worldwide, with approximately 1.6 billion children and youngsters unable to attend physical schools due to temporary closures and lockdowns.
Gradually, we saw many colleges and schools adapting by conducting classes via videotelephony softwares such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams. Online tests and assignments became a part of the ‘new normal’. However, in a country where more than 60% population lives in rural areas with a dearth of connectivity and devices required for accessing advanced educational resources, a sudden change in the way of teaching meant an exacerbation of disparities in learning outcomes. Even for the ones who could afford these, the skill development of the students in this virtual world was no match at all to what it used to be in a physical set up.
Also, not to forget the negative impact on academic integrity that has been observed around the world. After all, when there is no one to proctor examination in a physical setup, a rise in exam cheating and contract cheating were expected to be obvious consequences.
Various reports suggest that the economic cost of the lost learning reduced skill development and decreased academic integrity would be enormous for the current batch of students. As per a report by OECD, the students in grades 1-12 affected by the closures might expect some 3 percent lower-income over their entire lifetimes.
For nations, the lower long-term growth related to such losses might yield an average of 1.5 percent lower annual GDP for the remainder of the century. These economic losses would grow if schools are unable to re-start quickly. As per a World Bank report, India is expected to lose $440 billion in future earnings due to the loss of learning during the pandemic. While long-term income losses might be a direct consequence for the students, a lesser skilled labor force would ultimately lead to lesser economic growth. Well, it seems as the country was busy coping with the short-run effects of the virus, it might have ended up making a long term dent in the economy inadvertently.
However, one positive thing that this pandemic has done for us is that it has given us sufficient time to rethink and reform. For long years, India has been criticized for its minimal spending on education, health, and social development. The pandemic was definitely an eye-opener for the country in terms of the focus it must give on such basic amenities. In the times to come, digital learning is expected to emerge big.
Thus, the government must invest more in open-source digital learning solutions and Learning Management Software so that online teaching is conducted even in government schools. Moreover, inclusive learning solutions for the most vulnerable and marginalized must be developed. The government will have to to put in an ample amount of effort to ensure greater accessibility to the rural areas as well in order to minimize the disparities in learning outcomes in the new normal.
Written By- Nischal Upadhyay