Two-thirds of academic year lost on average globally due to COVID-19 closures: UNESCO

TORONTO — New figures from UNESCO shows that two-thirds of an academic year has been lost on average worldwide due to COVID-19 closures.

Data released from UNESCO’s interactive monitoring map shows that one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 800 million students still face significant disruptions to their education, ranging from full school closures in 31 countries to reduced or part-time academic schedules in another 48 countries.

Globally, schools were closed “for an average of 3.5 months (14 weeks) since the onset of the pandemic,” according to a release.

That figure rises to five and a half months, or 22 weeks, equivalent to two-thirds of an academic year, when localized school closures are taken into account.

Breaking down the data by region shows the duration of school closures varies greatly, from five months or 20 weeks of “complete nation-wide closures on average” in Latin America and Caribbean nations, to the lesser two-and-a-half months or 10 week average in Europe.

Oceania, a geographical region comprised of countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Palau, Tonga, Samoa and more, had an average school closure of one month.

When factoring in localized school closures, the data shows “the duration of complete and localized closures exceeded seven months, or 19 weeks, on average in Latin America and the Caribbean, compared to the global average of five-and-a-half months, or 22 weeks,” the release states.

Schools are now fully open in 101 countries, and world governments have been attempting to minimize countrywide school closures – at the pandemic peak in April 2020, 190 countries had countrywide closures, down to just 30 countries as of Sunday.

“Prolonged and repeated closures of educational institutions are taking a rising psycho-social toll on students, increasing learning losses and the risk of dropping out, disproportionately impacting the most vulnerable,” said Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, in the release. “Full school closures must therefore be a last resort and reopening them safely a priority.” 

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