Schools’ closure: Local students could lose a year of learning with long term challenges – World Bank

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By Vishani Ragobeer

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It has been estimated that school children in Guyana could lose about one year of learning because of the closure of schools for face-to-face classes prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is according to Representative of the World Bank Ricardo Habalian, who also underscored that this learning loss may lead to significant challenges for the children in the future.

Habalian was speaking at the launch of the Education Strategic Sector plan for 2021 to 2025; this plan is expected to address the deficiencies and disparities in Guyana’s education system.

The World Bank representative acknowledged that there have been some gaps in the access to and delivery of education in Guyana. In fact, he pointed out that the World Bank’s Human Capital Index estimates that the average child in Guyana is about half as productive as he, she or they would have been with access to full education and health.

Representative of the World Bank Ricardo Habalian

Generally, this index measures how much capital an individual country loses through lack of education and health. And, Habalian emphasised that some of Guyana’s newfound natural resources wealth should be channeled into building the country’s human capital and improving the labour force.

Importantly, though, Habalian contended that the challenges faced have been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are seeing significant negative impacts on the education system as school closures have led to learning losses and dropouts,” Habalian stated.

And, he highlighted, “According to World Bank simulations, Guyana’s students could lose the equivalent of about one year of learning with significant implications for future opportunities and learning potential.”

The education sector plan was, however, touted as a mechanism that can help the local education authorities respond to the challenges. The plan is premised on five strategic goals:

  • Improving governance and accountability
  • Improving performance at all levels
  • Improving the efficiency of the education system
  • Reducing inequities in education
  • Contributing to lifelong learning and employability

The Minister of Education Priya Manickchand explained that the plan was crafted after extensive consultations with a number of stakeholders.

Importantly, she said, “We are acutely aware of the need to both recognise and effectively address our various educational environments.”

Explaining this, she said that what is done in Stella Maris in Georgetown cannot be the same as what is done in the indigenous community of Awarenau in Region Nine. Cognisant of this, she said that the education sector has to be responsive to the needs of the various communities.

“…. our approaches must adapt to our complex multi-layered context,” she emphasised.

The plan is 161 pages and encompasses data-driven objectives for the education sector. It also outlines the implementation of the plan and the necessary monitoring and evaluation components.

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