COVID Learning Losses Could Cost a Generation Trillions in Earnings; How to Address That

Author and former Microsoft education specialist Erika Twani presents action to offset potential earning losses due to pandemic-related learning shortcomings

COVID Learning Losses Could Cost a Generation Trillions in Earnings; How to Address That
© Taylor Wilcox

Education felt the staggering impact of the pandemic as much as any area of life.

Schools temporarily closed, learning went virtual, parents struggled to become supplemental teachers, and students fell behind on their learning.

Now it’s coming to light that education’s crisis brought financial consequences as well. One worldwide study by UNESCO, UNICEF and the World Bank estimated that, because of COVID-19-related school closures and economic shocks, this generation of students risks losing $17 trillion in lifetime earnings, or about 14 percent of today’s global GDP.

“With all these setbacks, it’s imperative that educators figure out the necessary steps to set things right and get students back on track,” says Erika Twani, author of Becoming Einstein’s Teacher: Awakening the Genius in Your Student. “While some efforts might take time, there are actions that can make schools better right now.”

Twani says those actions include:

  • Create a learning routine. “Regardless of whether students are learning at school or at home, as long as they have a routine, they will learn anywhere, anytime,” Twani says. She advocates using six research-based steps for accomplishing that. They are: (1) start the day by planning and setting goals; (2) explore previous knowledge of the lesson at hand; (3) research the lesson using the resources available, such as books, computers, songs, and magazines; (4) practice what was learned with activities or projects, or allow students to demonstrate what they learned with the medium of their choice; (5) motivate students to relate what they learned to their own lives; and (6) ask questions to help students self-assess their own performance and achievements for that specific lesson.
  • Get to know each student. Determining where students are right now in their learning journey is a critical step in helping them succeed. “Once you’ve done that,” Twani says, “their learning can be targeted to students’ learning levels and specific needs.” In the process schools must help each child find and pursue their purpose in life. “To increase excitement about learning, children must continuously learn things associated with their passions, at home and at school,” Twani says. “For example, do you know why many children dislike reading? Because it involves reading books they do not enjoy. Reading a book unrelated to your passion is as dull as reading a manual. Instead, encourage children to read books related to their individual interests.”
  • Use technology as a means to an end. Technology is important in the classroom, but it’s equally important that the technology fits the purpose it was brought in for and that it enhances human interactions. “Environmental factors and resources such as technology, labs, or specific textbooks can help to accelerate learning,” Twani says. “But using those resources without a process for guiding children and educators in how to learn makes them useless.”
  • Ensure that teachers have access to the professional development they need. Teachers should be provided with practical, high-quality professional development opportunities, teaching guides and learning materials. “Educators greatly influence students’ development and life journeys,” Twani says, “so it is important to invest in continuous professional development for them.”

“Certainly, there are other areas to consider, such as infrastructure, teachers’ compensation, resources, and so on,” Twani says. “But I have seen education communities find a way to greatly improve students’ lives when starting from these points.

“These are often underserved schools, where teachers create their own books because the system does not provide them with textbooks. They are schools with no technology, where students find a way to research the latest news. They are overcrowded schools where teachers and students work together to help each other and get everyone to learn. If these schools were able to be successful, imagine what schools with all the available resources can do.”