Skills lost due to Covid school closures will hit output for generations - OECD

Pupils wearing face masks practice social distancing as they sit in their classroom on the first day of school after summer holidays amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak, at Mariano Jose de Larra public school in Madrid, Spain, September 8, 2020.
Pupils wearing face masks practice social distancing as they sit in their classroom on the first day of school after summer holidays amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak, at Mariano Jose de Larra public school in Madrid, Spain, September 8, 2020.
Image: REUTERS/Sergio Perez

Disruption to schooling stemming from the Covid-19 epidemic will cause a skill loss that could result in a 1.5% drop in global economic output for the rest of this century, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development estimated.

For the United States, that will represent an economic loss of $15.3 trillion, the OECD said in a report published on Tuesday, with the bill rising higher still if disruption to education extends into the next academic year.

"Learning loss will lead to skill loss, and the skills people have relate to their productivity," the report said, explaining the forecast drop in global GDP.

Governments around the world closed schools to curb the spread of Covid-19, in most cases for around 10 weeks, or one third of a year of schooling.

One impact was to widen the gaps in educational opportunities between the rich and poor. Children with internet access, computers, and supportive families fared better.

"Students from privileged backgrounds ... could find their way past closed school doors to alternative learning opportunities. Those from disadvantaged backgrounds often remained shut out when their schools shut down," the report said.

Even as schools in many countries re-open, big challenges remain for education, according to the OECD report. Schools must navigate how to re-open without causing a new spike in infections.

With economies contracting, there is a risk education budgets will shrink, the report said. And universities will have to reinvent themselves so they stay attractive to students even when they can longer offer the traditional campus experience.  


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