UK consultancy firms are on the front line of the Covid-19 education crisis, working together with government and donor partners internationally to address a situation that is unfolding across the world and reinforcing pre-existing challenges. The crisis will take years to fully overcome, with the impact felt by the most vulnerable in society and it will take education stakeholders working together to tackle it.
In an effort to address the problem, British Expertise International’s education working group has published a briefing paper, Recover Learning, Rebuild Education, which outlines solutions to the Covid education crisis and offers the views from UK-based specialist education providers. The paper presents the views of the BEI education working group on the dimensions of the crisis, drawing on their significant technical experience and expertise, and outlines sustainable and systemic interventions that can be used to respond, together with the support that BEI can offer to implement them.
The paper is aimed at UK and international policymakers and the agencies that support them, such as the UN, World Bank, Global Partnership for Education and various other multilateral and bilateral funders. It is also intended for education policymakers at national and devolved level, all of whom are grappling with an enormous international challenge. It is also intended to provide a perspective on what BEI education working group members think should be done and how the group and BEI can support these efforts.
During the Covid pandemic, school closures affected more than a billion young people, with schools in some systems still closed. The risk for some children is they do not return to school at all. Despite the best efforts of systems to maintain learning continuity, ‘learning poverty’ (as defined by the World Bank) could rise by as much as 10% as a result of Covid-19 – severely compromising progress towards UN Sustainable Development Goal #4.
Furthermore, beyond the immediate loss of learning, there are broader, long-term ramifications related to child protection, gender, equity, displacement, and impacts on skills, employability and higher education. As also highlighted by the World Bank, the impacts of learning loss are severe for individuals' but also for national economies.
There is therefore an urgent need to respond. The BEI paper says that education systems worldwide need a rapid reconfiguration to ensure the return to school is effective, to realise the opportunities Covid-19 has presented particularly regarding technology and the school to home and community relationship. In addition, it advocates that frameworks such as UNESCO’s can also support education policymakers to work through appropriate policies and plans to enable the achievement of ‘building back better’.
BEI says that to deal with the education crisis effectively, “policymakers need to understand as fully as possible the key dimensions to this problem and work together with key stakeholders to address it”. This includes advocacy to ensure sufficient funding is available and critically, partnership to ensure the right expertise is available to guide decision making and support effective implementation.
The briefing paper concludes: “The message from British Expertise International education working group members is that we understand the scale of this emergency. We are working in systems across the world to help address it. But we believe more needs to be done, and we have experience and expertise to offer. Working together, we believe this crisis can be addressed and the life chances of millions of young people improved despite the challenges ahead. We welcome further discussion with those who want to work with us to do so.”