By Anya Cowley, Education Advisor and Chiara Orlassino, Research Advisor in Global Policy, Advocacy and Research
Families across parts of the UK celebrated the reopening of schools this week, giving children a chance to see friends and teachers, and parents a break from home-schooling. More than one year on since the start of the pandemic, it signals the return to some sense of normality.
Children told us they were happy and excited to go back to school, having lost, on average, 38 days of education each – a whopping 373 million in total – since the pandemic’s onset, according to our new analysis.
As classrooms reopen for UK children, the UK Government also has an important role to play in ensuring the safe return to school and learning for the most marginalised children globally.
Yet the UK Government has announced plans to slash UK aid funding from 0.7% to 0.5% of gross national income, which could see a million girls lose out on schooling.
2021 is a critical year for the UK Government to demonstrate leadership on the global stage. As President of the G7, and co-host of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Replenishment this year, and with our departure from the EU, all eyes are on the UK. Is this the Global Britain we want to be?
If the UK Government is to live up to its promises, it must step up its own global education financing by pledging at least £600 million to GPE over the next five years and ensure children – especially girls - safely return to school and catch up on lost learning.
112 billion days of lost learning
Globally, we estimate that children have lost on average 74 days of education each due to school closures and a lack of access to remote learning – more than a third of the standard global 190-day school year.
In total, an estimated 112 billion days of education have been lost altogether, with children in low-income countries disproportionately affected.
Our new analysis of data for 194 countries and different regions shows that figures vary widely across regions: children in Latin America and the Caribbean, and South Asia, missed out on 110 days - almost triple the education days of children in Western Europe, who missed on average 38.
Santiago, 13, attends a school for children with hearing losses supported by Save the Children in Venezuela. The school has been closed since the start of the pandemic.
“What makes me feel sad, worried, and scared is not being able to return to school,” said Santiago. “People understand me there. When I can´t go to school, I cry and just want to sleep. What I would tell the children in the world who are feeling sad or scared or worried is that they are my friends. And that they are not alone.”
Our analysis estimates lost days of education a year into the pandemic, from mid-February 2020 to the beginning of February 2021. To calculate this, our research experts looked at data on school closures, enrolment rates, access to remote learning, school-aged population, and the effectiveness of learning from home instead of attending school in person. While 74 days per child is a staggering number, it is most likely an underestimate, meaning that lost days of education are probably much higher.