Context: On January 24, we celebrated the third edition of the International Day of Education, a day proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly to honour education and its value to humanity and sustainable development. 

  • Our theme for 2021, ‘Recover and Revitalize Education for the COVID-19 Generation’, places an emphasis on the way the pandemic has negatively affected learning outcomes for students globally.

The learning crisis 

  • According to UNESCO estimates, about 1.6 billion students from some 190 countries were affected by the shutdown of schools caused by COVID-19, reversing years of progress in education. 
  • In India, more than 1.5 million school closures affected about 286 million schoolchildren. 
    • This added to the six million girls and boys who were already out of school prior to the crisis.
  • Continued disruption: UNESCO data show more than half the world’s student population, still face significant disruptions to their education, ranging from full school closures to reduced or part-time academic schedules.
    • Remote learning remains out of reach for more than 500 million students globally. 
  • Funding issues:
  • Global education financing reduced because of fiscal challenges and the need to prioritise public health and social safety spending.
  • According to UNESCO, out of the $11.8 trillion global COVID-19 fiscal response, a mere 0.78% (or $91 billion) was allocated to education, with $73 billion spent in high-income countries.

Increased funding in South Asia: On average, it is estimated that South Asia allocated 0.85% of its fiscal package to education, compared to 0.73% for Europe and North America and 0.69% for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Increased spending on e-education

  • Under the National Education Policy (NEP), 2020, the Education Ministry has tried to develop courses to reach all learners via the Internet and the airwaves. 
  • These shifts in public expenditures were mainly driven by Information and Communication Technology measures to support the delivery of education through 
    • a mix of radio, television, and mobile technology
    • the home delivery of printed learning materials for the most vulnerable students who cannot avail technology.

Way forward:

  • Increased funding: Governments, development partners and businesses must increase funding.
  • Sustainable education system: They should make education systems more resilient, inclusive, flexible, and sustainable.

Now is the time to step up collaboration and international solidarity and place education at the centre of the recovery and the transformation towards more inclusive, safe, and sustainable societies.