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Study: 19% of primary, 25% of secondary school-going children at risk of learning loss due to Covid-19

  • Published at 08:33 pm May 10th, 2021
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File photo: Students attend their class at one of the risky schools in Goplaganj Dhaka Tribune

More children were out of school in urban slums than rural at both primary and secondary levels

A study has revealed that some 19% of primary and 25% of secondary school-going children are at risk of learning loss as educational institutions in the country have remained shut since March last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

These findings were arrived at through research jointly conducted by Power and Participation Research Center (PPRC) and BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) of BRAC University.

The national three-phase rapid telephonic survey was carried out between April 2020 and March 2021 with the aim of assessing the poverty impact of the Covid-19 crisis.

The survey findings were presented at a virtual press conference, entitled "Covid Impact on Education Life of Children", on Monday where the increased risk of learning losses, dropouts and psychological and economic costs of coronavirus were discussed. 

The survey shows that in pre-pandemic times, a greater proportion of secondary school-going children were out of school (21%) than primary (14%). More children were out of school in urban slums than in rural areas at both primary and secondary levels.

This risk of learning loss is more pronounced for urban secondary school-going children - 26% for females and 30% for males - and poorer groups, with secondary school-going males from extremely poor families being at the highest risk of 33% - possibly as a result of the Covid-19 induced economic shock, the study noted. 

"A significant portion of school-going children are at risk of learning loss. Thus, school reopening must be coupled with a set of remedial measures to cover the learning loss and help children to cope up," said Dr Imran Matin, executive director of BIGD.

The survey also revealed very low access to distance learning through both public and private ,with only around 10% of students who had access to it or used distance learning opportunities to compensate for school closure. 

Classes on government-owned TV channel were viewed by only around 2%. At the same time, 51% in primary and 61% in secondary went to coaching or private tuition, which has been the dominant coping mechanism.

More than 95% of guardians are eager to send their children back to the classroom once schools reopen. The economic costs of education post-pandemic have been significant. 

From June 2020 to March 2021, out-of-pocket expenditure for education increased twelve-fold.

The crisis has increased the opportunity cost of investing in education. At least 8% of school-going boys and 3% of school-going girls are engaged in some form of income-earning activity, the study added. 

The survey further revealed the psychological costs of the pandemic - children aged between 10 and 20 in urban slums are twice as stressed (15.7%) as those in rural areas (8.4%). 

In his concluding remarks, Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman stressed the need for discussion on the three main consequences of school closures – learning loss, education cost burdens and multidimensional social alienation. 

“Amidst the uncertainty, we are recommending an early reopening to prevent learning and motivation loss and allay parental fears around education,” said Dr. Rahman

He recommended that existing primary and secondary stipend programs be used to redress the out-of-pocket education cost burdens. Using the established database, the government can quickly provide a cash boost by allocating Tk2,960 crore in the 2021-22 budget.

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