The Puggle: January 2022 edition

Welcome to 2022! Our fervent wish for the year is that schools reopen and stay open — a resolution that more and more school systems seem to be making and sticking to — and make concerted efforts to get girls back to school and to regain ground for “Covid’s Lost Girls.”

So what’s the state of play in (girls’) education as we enter a new year?

For our December Puggle we shared a playlist for the year so we missed out on covering a joint report from UNESCO, Unicef, and World Bank on The State of the Global Education Crisis. For a good summary of the report check out this blog and this piece from the Washington Post. Long story short, 2020 estimates of the pandemic’s effect on education were too optimistic. Now experts believe that as many as 70% of children could be living in Learning Poverty and this “generation of students now risks losing $17 trillion in lifetime earnings in present value.” These learning deficits will continue to widen the gap between rich and poor countries as well as fuel inequality within countries. “The estimated learning losses were greater in math than reading, and they disproportionately affected younger learners, students from low-income backgrounds, and girls.”

An analysis of national benchmarks for achieving SDG 4 (sustainable development goals on education) suggests that “even if countries reach their benchmark values by 2030, the world will still fall short of the ambition expressed in SDG 4, before even accounting for the potential impact of COVID-19 on education systems.”All this and more — like this great case for reopening schools given that Education Is Key To Battling India’s Poverty Challenge — point to the importance of fulfilling our wish for the year. 

Fortunately, this month Uganda re-opened its schools after “the longest pandemic-prompted shutdown in the world.” A new report (and summary) from Uwezo Uganda underscored broader findings that the youngest learners have suffered the most. They were the least likely to be involved in home-based learning. Between 2018 and 2021 the rate of full reading competency has risen looking at all children in primary grades 3-7, but for the youngest learners, in grade 3, the proportion of non-readers increased from 12.7% in 2018 to 25.1% in 2021. 

Given that we know young learners miss out tremendously when schools are shut, why haven’t governments done more on behalf of early childhood education? This paper teases out the forces at work, highlighting the lack of cohesive support and financing for early childhood education, “concerns about young children’s ability to comply with health protocols, and competition with high-stakes examinations for education ministries’ attention.” 

What can we do about the current state of affairs?

For an excellent summary of the state of play, how governments have responded, and what the evidence suggests we do about it, look no further than the latest recommendations from the Global Education Evidence Advisory Panel. The panel underscores the urgency around keeping schools open for all children (including those in preschool!), reducing transmission in schools, providing additional instructional support to teachers, and adjusting instruction to target students’ current learning needs and catch them up. It also covers lessons learned during the school disruptions around leveraging technology and encouraging parental engagement. 

Fortunately, there are lots of resources around adjusting instruction to support foundational learning now available on the Foundational Literacy & Numeracy Hub. An encouraging study from a sequence of experiments in Colombia shows just how effective remedial instruction can be, especially when accompanied by iterative learning that quadrupled the impact of the intervention over time.

There’s also a newly-published systematic review on Policies and interventions to remove gender-related barriers to girls’ school participation and learning in low- and middle-income countries. The findings from this systematic review fed into the Evidence for Gender in Education Resource Girls’ Education Road Map that was published a year ago, which, if you missed it then, is absolutely worth a read now.

Even as we work hard to recover from COVID’s impacts on (girls’) education, how can we continue to strive for an even better future?

“Imagine if every child  and  young person had the tools, knowledge  and resources to challenge the status quo and champion gender equality from a young age.” A new report looks at the power of Gender Transformative Education to catalyze exactly this sort of change.  

Imagine if every child had the chance to hone their social and emotional skills and mindsets. A study in Tanzania suggests that very young adolescence (age 10-11 years) is an opportune moment “for social emotional learning that can shape early adolescent identity formation and gender norms, beliefs and behaviors.” It underscores the importance of experiential learning experiences and the additional advantages of engaging caregivers and community members in the process.

Imagine if all students developed deep critical thinking skills, appropriate to their context. A systematic integrative review finds that researchers and practitioners could do more to look at how western concepts of critical thinking apply to the sub-Saharan context. It “can serve as a methodological guide for professionals and academics who wish to investigate critical thinking in the African context.”

Imagine if by empowering girls we could help their brothers, too? This experiment from Uganda suggests that when girls participated in an empowerment intervention their brothers became more competitive and had better outcomes, too.

Imagine if learning did not just happen in one classroom with one teacher. Elizabeth King and Urvashi Sahni discuss the power of learning teams in this podcast episode from Brookings 17 Rooms process.

Imagine if we incorporated new voices and the most recent science into our work on early childhood development. The Harvard Center on the Developing Child summarizes what we learned from “ECD 1.0” and what we now need to incorporate as “ECD 2.0.”

Other research and resources that may be of interest…

Believe it or not, we still have loads of other interesting content to flag for you!

We hope 2022 is off to a good start for you, or at least starting to look up as Omicron cases begin to decline. Check back next month for more updates!