Lockdowns will be a drag on the economy for 40 years due to their impact on students, says OECD

As COVID-19 spread across the world in early 2020, governments rushed to close their countries’ borders, shut down businesses deemed nonessential, and withdraw children from schools in an effort to “stop the spread” and give time for vaccines. be developed.

The economic impact of these decisions was severe and immediate, leading many world leaders, particularly in developed countries, to enact sweeping legislation to help their citizens overcome the tragedy and keep businesses alive. Central banks have generally responded in kind, cutting interest rates to support their struggling economies with cheap money.

No effort was spared to save Fortune 500 corporations and small businesses from disaster during pandemic-era lockdowns. But the children were not so lucky.

In the United States and around the world, school has been completely sidelined or become a digital-only experience, and with little time to prepare, many education systems have struggled to produce results. In fact, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), between 2018 and 2022, “in many countries there was an unprecedented decline in the performance of 15-year-olds tested in reading and mathematics”.

In its recently released interim economic outlook, titled “Strengthening the foundations for growth,” the OECD warned that this decline in test scores “could have a persistent negative impact on the level of productivity over the next 30 to 40 years.”

In essence, lower test scores today translate into less productive economies in the long run.

School closures

What’s to blame for declining test scores? The OECD said school closures during the pandemic were likely to be a contributing factor, “particularly for disadvantaged students who were unable to fully benefit from online teaching”.

The idea that school closures hurt test scores has broad scientific support. As researchers explained in a 2022 study published in the Journal of Global Health Reports, long-term absences from schools “have not only resulted in poorer learning outcomes that are causing intergenerational inequalities, but have also induced multiple physical and health problems. mental and even crisis among students at school level. all levels.”

Researchers, like the OECD, noted that the problems were also more severe in low- and middle-income countries, because these countries lacked the resources to provide adequate online education. This lower-quality education offered during the pandemic has led to students losing motivation, resulting in higher dropout rates, more frequent child marriage and greater mental health problems, the Journal of Global Health Reports study says.

Did school closures simply exacerbate the trend?

School closures have certainly impacted student achievement in recent years, but the reality is that the trend of declining achievement did not begin during the pandemic.

“The recent decline in performance continues a downward trend in test scores prior to 2018, indicating long-term problems in some countries’ education systems,” the OECD study said.

The intergovernmental organization of 38 member countries recommended that governments around the world “act quickly to improve education and skills outcomes” by increasing the quality of teaching; use resources to help disadvantaged students; and expanding professional training opportunities.

The OECD also argues that universities and vocational schools need to do a better job considering labor market needs when creating curricula. “Such reforms will entail some additional fiscal costs – reinforcing the challenges governments face – but improving the quality of spending will be equally important,” he concluded.

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