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BRIEF October 28, 2020

Joint Initiative for Continuous and Accelerated Learning in response to COVID-19


The Challenge: Responding to a learning crisis exacerbated by COVID-19

The closure of schools due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has created unprecedented pressure on education, with short and long terms costs that include poorer learning outcomes, lower human capital accumulation, increased inequality, and greater instability. The world was already living in a learning crisis. If governments do not respond well, the learning crisis will deepen, and the country’s human capital will be depleted. More children and young people will not even go to school, and the opportunity gaps between rich and poor will be even larger. The negative impacts are potentially higher among the poor, leading to increased inequality and greater instability (crime and violence could increase; more unemployed, out-of-school youth).

Our Strategic Vision: Re-imagining Education to blur the lines between school and home

The world must respond quickly and deliberately to mitigate impacts while seizing opportunities to make education more inclusive, effective and resilient than pre-COVID-19.  This will require adopting two main strategies: i) countries should support reforms of teaching, curricula and assessment of learning to enable resilience and accelerated learning anytime, anywhere; and ii) develop mechanisms to support children and parents at home for continuous learning. The successful implementation of these strategies will require the world to re-imagine education. The paradigm of school as a fixed place where children must go at a fixed time should be extended so that the school can also go to the child anywhere, anytime –a school without walls. Learning outside school and at home should be the norm rather than the exception.

The significant investments in educational technology and other remote learning strategies that countries have made in the recent months to continue learning can be used as a launching pad for the new post-COVID-19 world. The lessons that we are learning today can help us re-imagine education.

Joint initiative of the World Bank with UNESCO and UNICEF under GPE's COVID-19 global grant

With the recent spread of the COVID-19, the education system is facing a new crisis, as more than 170 countries mandate some form of school closures impacting at least 1.5 billion children and youth. Extended school closures may cause not only loss of learning in the short term, but also further loss in human capital and diminished economic opportunities over the long term.

The World Bank, in collaboration with UNESCO and UNICEF (acting as a consortium), is implementing the US$25 million Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Grant for “Continuous and Accelerated Learning in response to COVID-19” program in the 67 GPE Education Sector Plan Implementation Grant (EPSIG)-eligible countries. The objective is to develop tools and resources to support countries’ efforts to realize continuous learning in response to COVID-19, in the short term to offset the impacts of school closures, and in the medium to long term to ensure continuity and accelerate learning after schools re-open while building resilience into the education system. In particular, support will be focused on improving foundational learning and lowering learning poverty by adapting to students’, teachers’ and parents’ needs, anywhere, anytime in a more inclusive, equitable, effective & resilient way than pre-COVID-19. The grant is expected to prioritize activities at the basic education level, which include pre-primary and lower secondary. Technical-Vocational Education and Training (TVET) or upper secondary levels of education are not supported.

The grant period covers April 22, 2020 throughout October 31, 2021. The World Bank has been assigned US$7.5 million, which will be used primarily to cover a) the development of global public goods, and b) piloting in selected GPE eligible countries. The Global Engagement and Knowledge unit (HEDGE) is the Bank’s main focal point in charge of managing the implementation process and related coordination efforts.

5 subcomponents led by the World Bank

The portion of grant funding from GPE to the World Bank will be used to finance subcomponents that support multi-modal continuous learning by supporting parents, children, teachers and school systems to accelerate learning and build resilience. In particular, the activities within the subcomponents will aim at addressing the challenges that are associated with learning poverty: a) lack of or few reading and other learning materials at home, b) less amount and quality of early schooling, c) quantity and quality of early grade reading instruction are substandard, d) systematic monitoring of progress at the level of the student and use of assessments to adjust instruction, and e) poorly trained or unqualified teachers who lack continuous support to master their ability to deliver high-quality early grade reading (EGR) instruction. Technology plays a key role in addressing all these challenges, especially within the context of continuous and accelerated learning.

The grant will be used to support the following five key subcomponents led by the Bank:

1.      Prepare and disseminate an education (EdTech) toolkit that provides policy makers with practical advice including decision-trees on selecting both EdTech for continuous (remote and distance learning) and accelerated (adaptive, intelligent tutoring, self-paced) learning.

2.      Design and pilot remote formative assessment solutions to ensure that student learning at home is happening, focusing on text/SMS based quizzes and nudges, virtual education helpdesks, and interactive voice response (IVR) materials and quizzes.

3.      Support the Read@Home program to get reading, learning and play materials into homes, targeting 3-12 year olds of the last mile families who are unlikely to be reached with remote learning approaches.

4.      Develop a compendium of structured lesson plans to improve curriculum and instructional practices for early grade using an evidence-based approach by linguistic and reading experts.

5.      Identify and develop EdTech solutions for teacher professional development, improving teacher quality, and student outcomes.

It is expected that the activities within the subcomponents will be scaled up within existing or future country operations. 

This page will be updated as the activities under the subcomponents progress.