LatAm Focus: The Good and Bad of COVID-19’s Education Disruption
The pandemic undercuts Latin America’s educational advances, but highlights innovations, too. Brookings’ Emiliana Vegas and Tinker Foundation’s Caroline Kronley explain.
This year, many of us faced an unexpected task: figuring out how to teach our children. After all, in April, 91 percent of the world’s students felt the effects of school closures due to the pandemic. Per UNESCO, some 160 million students in Latin America had stopped having in-person classes as of May, and two-thirds still weren’t in classes come October, leaving many without classes, meals, and the safe havens schools often provide.
The consequences of such a disruption spell long-term challenges for the region’s human capital development and productivity. Moreover, there’s the problem of growing inequality between poor and rich students and, despite reaching near-universal access to primary education, the fact that Latin American countries rank in the bottom third of the OECD’s assessment program, better known as the PISA.
“There is a big concern that, on average, our students are underperforming,” says Emiliana Vegas, senior fellow and co-director of the Center for Universal Education at Brookings Institution. “In some countries, like the Dominican Republic, 80 percent of 15 year olds who are in school were not achieving their basic levels of math and language and science knowledge.”
“Out of Covid, we will come out with teachers that are much less afraid than in the past to innovate.” — Emiliana Vegas