The worldwide school closures in early 2020 led to
losses in learning that will not easily be made up for even
if schools quickly return to their prior performance levels.
These losses will have lasting economic impacts both on
the affected students and on each nation unless they are
effectively remediated.

While the precise learning losses are not yet known,
existing research suggests that the students in grades 1-12
affected by the closures might expect some 3 percent
lower income over their entire lifetimes. For nations, the
lower long-term growth related to such losses might yield
an average of 1.5 percent lower annual GDP for the
remainder of the century. These economic losses would
grow if schools are unable to re-start quickly.
The economic losses will be more deeply felt by
disadvantaged students. All indications are that students
whose families are less able to support out-of-school
learning will face larger learning losses than their more
advantaged peers, which in turn will translate into deeper
losses of lifetime earnings.

The present value of the economic losses to nations reach
huge proportions. Just returning schools to where they
were in 2019 will not avoid such losses. Only making
them better can. While a variety of approaches might be
attempted, existing research indicates that close attention
to the modified re-opening of schools offers strategies
that could ameliorate the losses. Specifically, with the
expected increase in video-based instruction, matching
the skills of the teaching force to the new range of tasks
and activities could quickly move schools to heightened
performance. Additionally, because the prior disruptions
are likely to increase the variations in learning levels within
individual classrooms, pivoting to more individualised
instruction could leave all students better off as schools
resume.

As schools move to re-establish their programmes even as
the pandemic continues, it is natural to focus considerable
attention on the mechanics and logistics of safe re-opening.
But the long-term economic impacts also require serious
attention, because the losses already suffered demand
more than the best of currently considered re-opening
approaches.

Full text: (Download the PDF) – The Economic Impacts of Learning Losses