COVID-19 is on course to disrupt a third consecutive school year. The prospect of continued school closures has heightened concerns about learning loss, especially for the world’s most vulnerable, hardest to reach girls. How can governments and education practitioners enhance remote learning when and where schools are closed?
We looked at emerging evidence, including from a portfolio of research in response to COVID-19 funded by Echidna Giving, a private funder supporting the best ways to educate girls in lower-income countries. We came to three conclusions:
- Design strategies to identify and reach students who are least able to engage remotely.
- Prioritize low-tech or no-tech remote learning solutions.
- Emphasize personalized outreach and face-to-face interaction, especially for the hardest-to-reach.
Here’s a look at why:
Remote learning is a challenge for girls and boys alike.
Students spend much less time learning remotely than when schools are open—about 5.7 fewer hours in western and central Africa. Low access to technology partially explains this. A survey of over 1,000 adolescent girls and boys in Wajir, Kenya, found that only 20% of adolescents own a mobile phone. In Uganda, 35% of households do not own a radio.
Families also may not be aware of remote learning opportunities and/or may not have time to support children to access these opportunities.
In Pakistan, while 60% of households surveyed owned a television, only one-third of children in these families actually watched government-provided “teleschool.” In western and central Africa, 42.9% of households surveyed had access to the internet, but less than a quarter of children in these households used the internet for remote learning.
Where remote learning is happening, initial concerns that it would be a lot more challenging for girls than boys have been partially allayed.
A study in Pakistan suggests that girls are engaging in more hours of remote learning than boys (around 0.3 hours more, on average). And more parents in Ghana, Liberia, and Sierra Leone reported reading to their daughters (40%) and talking to them about school (63%) during school closures than with their sons (28% and 53%, respectively).