This blog was adapted from a longer piece by the same authors on the Brookings website.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in at least one positive thing: a much greater appreciation for the importance of public schools. Recognition of the essential caretaking role schools play in society has skyrocketed. Gratitude for teachers, their skills and invaluable role in student well-being has risen as young people struggle to learn from home. It is hard to imagine another moment in history when the central role of education in the economic, social and political prosperity and stability of nations is so well understood by the general population.
Let’s seize this moment and chart a vision for how education can emerge stronger from this global crisis.
Strong and inclusive public education systems are essential to the short- and long-term recovery of society and there is an opportunity to leapfrog towards powered-up schools, schools that are at the center of a community and leverage the most effective partners, including those emerging during COVID-19, to help learners grow and develop a broad range of skills in and out of school. Empowering parents to support their children’s education should be sustained when the pandemic subsides.
Is it realistic to envision education emerging stronger than before?
Some emerging global trends help us answer this question:
- Education inequalities are accelerating, especially where these inequalities were high prior to the pandemic. Pre-pandemic analysis estimated that 90% of children Iow-income countries, 50% of children in middle-income countries, and 30% of children in high income countries failed to master the basic secondary-level skills needed to thrive in work and life. The COVID-19 pandemic still leaves more than 700 million children cut off from schools in developing countries.
- Innovation has suddenly moved from the margins to the center of many education systems. There is an opportunity to identify new strategies, that, if sustained, can help young people get an education that prepares them from our changing times. There are examples of new strategies and approaches that could, if scaled up, have the potential to rapidly accelerate or leapfrog progress to close the gap in education inequality. These include innovations to change the teaching and learning process by using playful learning approaches and new approaches in the way schooling is delivered, what is taught, and how teaching is done.
- There is newfound public recognition of how essential schools are in society and a window of opportunity to leverage this support for making them stronger.
- New education allies: The pandemic has galvanized new actors in the community - from parents to social welfare organizations to support children’s learning like never before. Alongside increasing recognition of the essential role of public schools, the pandemic has galvanized parts of communities that traditionally are not actively involved in children’s education like community health and social welfare organizations, technology companies and non-governmental organizations to contribute to supporting children’s learning in new ways.