Back to School !

Schools have been shut since 2020 when Covid-19 led to a global lockdown. According to the World Economic Forum, over 1.2 billion children were out of their classrooms globally due to the lockdown. . At the outbreak of the pandemic, closing schools to protect children, teachers, and parents from a new unknown virus was the right thing to do. But after more than a year, enough evidence has been generated to take a more informed decision. Two primary elements should be at the center of the decision-making: the health risks associated with opening schools versus the education and learning costs of keeping schools the learning journeys and well-being of millions of children.

When and how to reopen schools was one of the toughest and most sensitive decisions on political agendas. Is it safe to reopen schools or is there a risk of reigniting infections? What are the consequences to children’s mental health and to the social development of young children? Are students engaged in remote learning actually learning? And when the time comes, how will schools ensure students return and help learners who have fallen behind during school closures?

The decision is complex because the pandemic continues to evolve, and not in linear manner. There is insufficient evidence on risks of transmission. Everywhere, confinement will be lifted gradually, with many question marks on how the process will be managed, to a great extent because there are many characteristics of the virus that we just don’t know. Yet, even with the current uncertainties, governments can anticipate and prepare to reopen schools successfully, putting the necessary safeguards in place.

As one can expect, the longer the school interruption, the larger the learning loss. Hence, the earlier schools can reopen, the less risk of long-term damage It is hard to imagine there will be another moment in history when the central role of education in the economic, social, and political prosperity and stability of nations is so obvious and well understood by the general population. Now is the time to chart a vision for how education can emerge stronger from this global crisis than ever before and propose a path for capitalizing on education’s newfound support in virtually every community across the globe.

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