Education in the time of COVID-19

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has caused an unprecedented crisis in all areas. In the field of education, this emergency has led to the massive closure of face-to-face activities of educational institutions in more than 190 countries in order to prevent the spread of the virus and mitigate its impact. According to data from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), by mid-May 2020, more than 1.2 billion students at all levels of education worldwide had stopped having face-to-face classes. Of these, more than 160 million were students in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has argued that even before the pandemic hit, the social situation in the region was deteriorating, owing to rising rates of poverty and extreme poverty, the persistence of inequalities and growing social discontent. In this context, the crisis will have a profoundly negative impact on the various social sectors, particularly health and education, as well as on employment and poverty (ECLAC, 2020a). Meanwhile, UNESCO has identified major gaps in educational outcomes, which are related to the unequal distribution of teachers in general, and of the best qualified teachers in particular, to the detriment of lower-income countries and regions and of rural areas, where indigenous and migrant populations tend to be concentrated (UNESCO, 2016a; Messina and García, 2020). In the sphere of education, many of the measures that the region’s countries have adopted in response to the crisis are related to the suspension of face-to-face classes at all levels, which has given rise to three main areas of action: the deployment of distance learning modalities through a variety of formats and platforms (with or without the use of technology); the support and mobilization of education personnel and communities; and concern for the health and overall well-being of students.


Spotlight on