At the height of national school closures in early April 2020, more than 180 million children had their pre-primary schooling disrupted due to COVID-19. A solid body of evidence shows that the foundations for learning are largely built in the early years of life, before a child ever enters primary school.
Children who fall behind in these early years often struggle to catch up with their peers, perpetuating a cycle of underachievement and high dropout rates that continues to harm vulnerable young people.
The youngest students lost the most days of schooling
A survey conducted by Vozes de Educação shows the wide variance in how countries have approached the reopening of early childhood education (ECE) settings. Among low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), pre-primary students lost an average of 106 in-person instruction days in 2020 - more than any other levels of schooling.
In comparison, the number of days lost for primary school students was 103 days, and 99 and 100 days lost for lower secondary and upper secondary students, respectively. Yet, fewer than a third of LMICs have planned to undertake an assessment of gaps in pre-primary learning that may have accumulated during the COVID-19 school closures.
The cost of inaction is high. Investment in early childhood education was already underfunded and under threat before the pandemic.