Covid Impact on Education Life of Children

6m students at risk of learning loss: Survey

Education cost rises due to school closure; guardians show concerns about edn expense burden

Staff Correspondent

11 May, 2021 12:00 AM printer

A new study has called for a budgetary allocation of Tk 26.90 billion to raise stipend amount for school students in FY22 after it found a rise in educational cost due to one year’s school closure. 

The joint study unveiled on Monday shows that 51 percent primary students and 61 percent secondary students had to go to coaching or private tutoring as coping mechanism for school shutdown.

This has put a huge burden on families of these students, especially the poor ones, as it shot up their educational expenses during June 2020-March 2021 percent by 11 times in rural poor families and 13 times in urban poor families.

“Although schools have remained closed last year, students’ education cost did not stop. Out-of-pocket education cost burden has cumulated in last one year. Obviously, the burden was higher on poor families,” Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman, executive chairman of PPRC, said.

“The existing primary and secondary stipend programmes can be used to redress the out-of-pocket education cost burdens,” he thinks. 

“Using the established database, the government can quickly provide a cash boost by allocating Tk 29.60 billion in 2021-22 budget,” he said.

The study also suggest quick reopening of schools in view of second wave of Covid-19 as it detected some 5.92 million school children at serious risk of learning loss because of the school shutdown. 

It warned that the extended closure has led to far-reaching consequences resulting in increased risk of learning losses, dropouts, and psychological and economic costs.

Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC) and BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) jointly conducted a national three-phase rapid telephonic survey between April 2020 and March 2021 to assess the poverty impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

Findings from Part II of the third phase survey titled “COVID Impact on Education Life of Children” were jointly presented by Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman and BIGD’s executive director Dr Imran Matin at an online press briefing on Monday. It showed that 19 percent of primary and 25 percent of secondary school-going children are at risk of learning loss.

“A significant portion of school-going children are at risk of learning loss. Thus, school reopening must be coupled with a set of remedial measures to cover the learning loss and help children to cope up,” said Dr Imran Matin. The survey was conducted among 6,099 family heads in around 4,940 households consisting of school-going aged children.

During the pandemic, some children stopped study entirely, while others resorted to six key ways of keeping up with their education—unsupervised self-study, studying with the support of family members, distance learning through online or television classes, private or coaching, and shifting to Madrasas.

This risk of learning loss is more pronounced for urban secondary school-going children – 26 percent for females and 30 percent for males – and poorer groups, with secondary school-going males from extreme poor families being at the highest risk of 33 percent – possibly as a result of the COVID-19 induced economic shock.

Without targeted remedial measures, this will lead to reduced learning capacity or risk of dropouts in future, the study warns.

The survey reveals very low access to distance learning through both public and private channels with only around 10 percent of students who had access to or used distance learning opportunities to compensate for school closure.

Government TV channel classes were viewed by only around 2 percent. Receiving private education was lower in urban areas compared to rural areas primarily due to higher costs.

Studying with parents or siblings, especially for primary, was also a crucial coping mechanism. Mothers in particular played an important support role for primary students (28 percent).

The shift to Madrasa was four times higher and Madrasa enrolment was double for primary school-going children than secondary.

While more than 95 percent of guardians are eager to send their children back once schools reopen, the economic costs of education post-pandemic are significant.

The crisis has increased the opportunity cost of investing in education. Eight percent of school-going boys and 3 percent of school-going girls are in some form of income-earning activity.

The survey further revealed the psychological costs of the pandemic – children aged between 10 and 20 in urban slums are twice as stressed (15.7 percent) as those in rural areas (8.4 percent).

The survey also examined parental attitudes and concerns. More guardians showed concerns about the learning (48 percent) and motivation loss (59 percent) and the expense burden education entails (46 percent), and less worry about contracting the coronavirus (14 percent). 

“A big policy message is to ensure that outside class hours, additional programmes are required as a learning loss recovery strategy to mitigate the loss as part of a post-COVID human capital agenda. Otherwise, a large part of our population will not only be far removed from education, but also become deskilled,” Dr Zillur Rahman warned.