‘Students’ future at risk’

Virtual classes: Students attending school at a garbage dump site that provides free WiFi in Surabaya. — AFP

Prolonged school closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic has deepened the learning crisis in Indonesia, as learning loss puts students at risk of notable income loss in the future, reveals a World Bank study.

The World Bank study, on overcoming learning losses and improving outcomes from the pandemic, suggests that students could experience between 0.9 and 1.2 years of learning loss during the 1.5-year school closure.

Even before the pandemic, the national education system delivered learning at levels far below what Indonesian children and youth need today, with students expected to attend an average 12.4 years of schooling but learning the equivalent of just 7.8 years.

The report, published on Sept 16, estimated that the pandemic could further reduce the learning-adjusted years of schooling from 7.8 years to between 6.6 and 6.9 years.

The nationwide school closure has also negatively impacted student literacy development, leaving more than 80% of 15-year-olds languishing below the minimum reading proficiency level of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, a marked increase from 70% in 2018.

And since human capital and future earnings are correlated, the World Bank estimates that learning loss due to the pandemic could cost each student US$408 (RM1,710) to US$578 (RM2,420) in future annual earnings.

As a whole, this means that the lifetime earning losses of all students could amount to US$253bil (RM1.06 trillion) to US$359bil (RM1.5 trillion), or between 24% and 34% of gross domestic product in 2020.

Learning loss, generally understood as the idea that learning decays over time if students don’t engage with it systematically and in person, has become a constant concern, as most of the nation’s 68 million primary and secondary school students have been away from the classroom since March 2020.

Even though regional administrators have been able to use their discretion to gradually reopen schools since July 2020, less than half of all schools nationwide had resumed in-person learning as of last Tuesday, according to the Education, Culture, Research and Technology Ministry.

The sluggish vaccine rollout for teachers and students aged 12 to 17, as well as persisting Covid-19 transmission, had made local leaders wary of sending children back to school, said Jumeri, the education ministry’s early childhood, primary and secondary education director-general.

“Progress in reopening schools remains very slow, even though the pandemic is subsiding. Many local leaders are taking a conservative and extremely cautious stance in allowing schools in their regions to reopen,” he said.

Only 40% of the country’s 5.5 million teachers are fully vaccinated to date, while around 26.5 million students aged 12 to 17, or a mere 9% of this demographic segment, are fully vaccinated. — The Jakarta Post/ANN

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