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Asia’s Post-COVID Education Catch-Up

Failure to make up for students’ significant learning losses during the pandemic could diminish their lifetime earning potential and substantially damage economic equity across the Asia-Pacific region. Governments must urgently mitigate these shortfalls by strengthening schools and social safety nets.

MANILA – Across Asia and the Pacific, students and parents are breathing a sigh of relief as schools reopen and in-person classes gradually resume. But now comes the reckoning: Failure to make up for students’ significant education losses during the COVID-19 pandemic could diminish their lifetime earning potential and substantially damage economic equity throughout the region.

With the new academic year in many Asian countries starting in a matter of months, governments must urgently mitigate these learning shortfalls by strengthening schools and social safety nets. While many schools offered remote learning during the pandemic, this was a poor substitute for in-person instruction – especially in developing countries. According to Asian Development Bank estimates, students in developing Asia lost over half a year of effective learning on average.

The costs of doing nothing are steep. If not remedied, students’ lost education will reduce their productivity throughout their working lives and translate into estimated aggregate forgone earnings of $3.2 trillion in constant 2020 dollars, equivalent to 13% of developing Asia’s GDP in 2020.

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