New data suggest that the damage has been worse than almost anyone expected. Locking kids out of school has prevented many of them from learning how to read properly. Before the pandemic 57% of ten-year-olds in low and middle-income countries could not read a simple story, says the World Bank. That figure may have risen to 70%, it now estimates. The share of ten-year-olds who cannot read in Latin America, probably the worst-affected region, could rocket from around 50% to 80% (see chart 1).
Children who never master the basics will grow up to be less productive and to earn less. McKinsey, a consultancy, estimates that by 2040 education lost to school closures could cause global gdp to be 0.9% lower than it would otherwise have been—an annual loss of $1.6trn. The World Bank thinks the disruption could cost children $21trn in earnings over their lifetimes—a sum equivalent to 17% of global gdp today. That is much more than the $10trn it had estimated in 2020, and also an increase on the $17trn it was predicting last year.
In many parts of the world, schools were closed for far too long…. During the first two years of the pandemic countries enforced national school closures lasting 20 weeks on average, according to unesco. Periods of “partial” closure—when schools were closed in some parts of a country, or to some year groups, or were running part-time schedules—wasted a further 21 weeks. Regional differences are huge. Full and partial shutdowns lasted 29 weeks in Europe and 32 weeks in sub-Saharan Africa. Countries in Latin America imposed restrictions lasting 63 weeks, on average. That figure was 73 weeks in South Asia.
New data suggest that the damage from shutting down schools has been worse than almost anyone expected https://t.co/NFwisYrDsg
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) July 9, 2022