WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.) have introduced legislation (S. 4548) that would help identify the scope of one of the most significant secondary impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic: education loss. School closures stemming from this global health crisis have affected over 1 billion students around the world and, according to a recent study by Save the Children, about 10 million students are in danger of permanently dropping out of school due to rising poverty related to the pandemic.
“Education loss due to the pandemic is going to reverberate throughout the globe long after COVID-19 is contained, and its impact will be more than empty classrooms. It has the potential to fuel hunger, poverty, and violence while undermining equality, especially for girls and young women, as well as stability all over the world. We have a responsibility to mitigate this crisis before an entire generation is left behind,” said Senator Cardin, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee that oversees human rights and global women’s issues.
“Understanding the impact COVID-19 has on the education of children around the world is important to our long-term investment in international education programs. Having detailed information about these current challenges will help us innovate the delivery of academic opportunities so students can continue to receive a quality education when faced with unexpected circumstances. I appreciate Senator Cardin’s leadership to ensure no student is left behind,” Senator Boozman said.
Representatives Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.-06), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.-05) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.-01) have introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
“We cannot overstate the profound impact COVID-19 is having on education across the world,” said Representative Houlahan. “This education gap has the potential to hinder global efforts on economic justice, lasting peace, poverty eradication, ending world hunger, gender equity and more. As a steadfast advocate for women and girls around the world, I’m particularly concerned about the harrowing consequences school-aged girls face in light of school closures – including an increased likelihood of gender-based violence. I am glad to be leading a bicameral effort with colleagues from across the aisle to ensure we in the United States are doing everything we can to mitigate the effects of such an education gap and stand up for the world’s youth.”
“The coronavirus pandemic has affected every corner of US government, including foreign aid and development. USAID’s mission is vital to America’s international relationship building. Congress needs a thorough understanding of how the pandemic has impacted that mission if we hope to continue our global basic education programs successfully in the future,” said Representatives Quigley and Fitzpatrick. “USAID providing Congress with a report is the first step to developing that understanding and supporting USAID effectively moving forward.”
Serious educational gaps that existed before COVID-19 are being exacerbated as schools have been forced by the pandemic to transition to remote learning or close completely. Children and youth who were already vulnerable, including girls and young women, refugees, and those with disabilities, are likely to be the worst impacted by this loss of access to education. This bill notes the major economic and humanitarian implications of the learning loss, as well as the significant shortage of global financing for international education programs that is predicted. It highlights the need for the United States to promote inclusive learning opportunities, help strengthen education systems, and support the return of children to school across the globe.
If enacted, the bill requires the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to submit a report within 90 days to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the impact of COVID-19 on global learning and basic education programs. It requires the report to be made publicly available and to include:
- an assessment of the magnitude of global learning loss,
- an analysis of how school closures affect marginalized children,
- descriptions of forms of distance learning in low resource contexts,
- data on Agency programs being carried out to continue learning during the pandemic, and
- a description of the resources USAID needs to support education programs during and after the pandemic.
The Global Learning Loss Assessment Act can be downloaded here.