Rewrite the future: How Indonesia can overcome the student learning losses from the pandemic and increase learning outcomes for all

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Photo: Husniati Salma/Unsplash Photo: Husniati Salma/Unsplash

A new World Bank study presents estimates of children’s learning loss due to COVID-19-related school closures in Indonesia. Our latest estimates show that school closures through June 2021 have already resulted in a loss of approximately 0.9 years of learning adjusted schooling and 25 points on student’s PISA reading scores . Further losses through December 2021 are expected to be even greater. Our calculations show that the amount of learning lost depends more on how well student learning is supported than the duration of school closure.


Mitigation Efforts by the Government of Indonesia

The government of Indonesia made major efforts to mitigate the impacts of the crisis on the school system, including an emergency curriculum, educational TV, and internet credits to increase student access to distance learning. However, the results of these measures have been mixed. For example, the portion of children of school age watching educational TV went down from 56 percent to 10 percent between May to November 2020, and the provision of internet credits did not significantly increase the numbers of students accessing online learning, though it did increase the amount of time they spent on distance learning per day (High Frequency Covid Survey 2021). The estimated impacts on student learning challenge a system that already had low levels of performance (The Promise of Education in Indonesia, 2020). The government has established a Learning Recovery Task Force to identify ways to improve the responses to a very difficult situation.


Determinants of Learning Loss

We found that the extent of learning and earning loss is determined more by the effectiveness of distance learning than by the duration of school closure . This means that it is important to find more effective ways of supporting student learning at a distance since this is unlikely to be the last time schools close given global warming and other threats. High-quality distance learning materials and support to new teaching approaches are suggested to maintain student interest and help those that are struggling.

The current COVID-19 caseload means that schools may be closed for a longer period. Extending our calculations through December 2021, Indonesian students are predicted to lose up to an additional 0.3 years of learning adjusted schooling and another 11 points on PISA (see figure, below). With the projected school closure about 50 percent of schools in the new academic year started July 2021, the present value loss in lifetime earnings for all Indonesian students would be US$306 billion , equivalent to about 29 percent of 2020 GDP.

Figure: Estimated total learning loss on PISA scores based on scenarios between Jan 2020 - Dec 2021



Towards Learning Recovery

To accelerate learning and recover some of these losses in the short term, schools and teachers will need to assess what the students have learned during school closure, and use a differentiated approach for each child to accelerate their learning. To ensure that the distance learning is effective, education offices at both district and provincial levels can conduct outreach to schools in their respective areas and identify those needing additional support , especially teachers who have difficulties delivering remote instruction. In the medium term, with the Government’s plan to gradually reopen schools once teachers are vaccinated, schools can be supported to achieve long-standing health guidelines, including ensuring functional water, sanitation and hygiene facilities for all.

In the longer term, the government can increase the resilience of education service delivery against future shocks from pandemics, climate change and other threats. Indonesia should improve overall student learning outcomes than pre-pandemic performance, while increasing its education system resilience.  These recommendations draw on the detailed descriptions in a just-published paper, “The struggle against COVID-19 in Indonesian Education: Responses, requirements, and policy needs for learning recovery.”

For more details on how Indonesia can address its learning losses, read the full findings and recommendations  here.


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Noah Yarrow

Senior Education Specialist

Rythia Afkar

Education Economist

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