Educationists and economists believe the damage would be huge to be borne by Bangladesh from generation to generation
- Affected mentally, idle pupils likely to become burden
- Child labour, early marriage to surge
- Gaps in edu scopes between the rich and the poor to be widened
- Majority pupils still out of online classes
- Little known about impacts of learning from home
The world will see a 1.5% drop in economic output for the rest of this century for skill loss due to disruption in schooling stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released the figure as it assessed the additional cost of education if disruption extends into the next academic year.
Bangladesh is not shielded from the colossal damage to future skills inflicted by the prolonged closure of educational institutions.
Although no such study has so far been carried out to assess the loss in monetary value, educationists and economists believe the damage would be huge to be borne from generation to generation.
"The present generation will be affected immediately, and even their children will also be victims of the pandemic. As a result, the rest of the years of this century will have to bear the cost of unskilled generation," says Professor Emeritus of Brac University Dr Manzoor Ahmed.
Like governments across the world, Bangladesh has also closed schools to curb the spread of Covid-19 since March and extended it several times with the last one for up to October 3.
It means the pandemic will eat up almost the whole academic year. The HSC examination, scheduled from April 2, is still undecided. No announcement has been made yet as to when schools, colleges and universities will reopen.
Educationists also see a massive disaster for the education sector in Bangladesh as most of the students are actually out of touch of the study. Although the government conducts record classes through television and radio but it has failed to reach all the students.
Prolonged closure could result in more disasters for Bangladesh than those feared in the assessment of the OECD, a club of rich countries with average per capita income of $30,500.
Besides, the students will be facing a psychological loss in the coming days because of their prolonged stay indoors, predict health experts.
Dr Manzoor Ahmed told The Business Standard that the students of poor families will be affected the most. Many of them will drop out.
"The male students will go for income, and the female ones will be forced into early marriage. It will definitely impact our future economy," he added.
The OECD report, released on Tuesday, identified one major impact of coronavirus-induced shutdown of educational institutions: widening gaps in educational opportunities between the rich and the poor. Children with internet access, computers, and supportive families will fare better, it pointed out.
The divide is even wider in Bangladesh due to little access to costly devices, poor network coverage and high cost of internet. Online classes, initiated by many institutions, could not connect the majority of the pupils.
Most of the public university students remain out of online classes due to lack of digital devices, costly internet packages and lack of internet connections.
Executive Director of South Asian Network on Economic Modelling (Sanem) Dr Selim Raihan told this correspondent, "We see clear economic losses due to disruption in schooling, which will lead to unskilled human resources among the young generation. It is just potential losses."
Many students along with their families shifted to villages from towns. A few of them will return to schools. A good number will drop out, he said.
"The total economic growth will be hampered if we cannot tackle the pandemic smartly. We will have to belong to the unskilled manpower who actually will be a burden for the economy," he added.
The government must form a national commission with the human resources experts, economists and educationists to recover the coming losses. Otherwise, it will be tough to continue the economic growth, Dr Selim said.
In Bangladesh, nearly 50 million pupils – from pre-primary schools to universities – are out of classrooms from late March.
According to the OECD, during the lockdowns in the first half of 2020, 1.5 billion young people in 188 countries saw their education disrupted by school closures and by an overnight shift to learning remotely. But little is known about the effectiveness of learning at home for the entire student population and what this means for skills development. There are indications from multiple countries that many children lacked effective instructions and early estimates show substantial learning losses in most countries.
Even as schools in many countries reopen, big challenges remain for education, according to the OECD report. Schools must navigate how to reopen without causing a new spike in infections.