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Announcing the winners of the third World Bank Group and Financial Times blog writing competition

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Photo: © Shutterstock
Photo: © Shutterstock

The World Bank Group and the Financial Times just revealed the winners of the third edition of our joint blog writing competition for high school students.  In the context of COVID-19, we asked them, how we can help children learn, everywhere?

The pandemic has disrupted our lives, and is changing the way we live, work and learn and has spurred an education crisis. The World Bank estimates that an additional 72 million primary school age children will fall into learning poverty, due to extended school closures caused by the pandemic. Learning poverty is when a child cannot read and understand a simple text by the age of 10.

Once again, more than 400 students entered the competition from 62 countries across every continent. High school students from around the world, from different social, cultural and economic backgrounds told us about their experience learning during COVID-19  as well as their ideas to improve the learning experience.

The winners are Shirin Rajesh from The Indian Public School in India, Tarık Hakan Akçin from Kabatas Erkek High School in Turkey, and Najya Gause from International School of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Do read their winning blog posts linked below. We also had strong submissions from our finalists Piniel Vireri from Sanyati Baptist Mission School in Zimbabwe and Arushi Menon from the Inventure Academy in India. We also want to thank all the students from around the world who sent in creative, thoughtful and innovative submissions.

Some common themes emerged across these essays:

Impact of the pandemic on young lives:

Most entries illustrated the personal impact of the pandemic on the student’s lives, from school closures, to lack of digital access or devices. Some students also detailed their personal family issues, from parents losing jobs, to lowering family income levels, access to food and nutrition or the pressures of taking care of younger siblings while trying to learn.

Importance of government investment in services such as electricity and the internet:

Several students pointed out the situations of students from different economic backgrounds, in developed or developing countries or rural and urban regions. Students with constant electricity, internet access or who had multiple devices realized that they were fortunate while others without described their inability to perform with intermittent access to services. Most writers stressed how this pandemic has illustrated the importance of strong policies and good development outcomes.

Importance of listening to students and mental health:

Writers weren’t shy about the mental and emotional toll COVID-19 has taken on them. They talked about the constant pressure of being indoors, the lack of motivation and sometimes the lack of a sanctuary away from home. They talked about missing social interaction and stimulation from their peers and educators. They underscored increasing awareness of mental health issues brought on by the pandemic and stressed that social and psychological well-being were crucial to academic success.

Training teachers for a virtual environment:

Students said that policy makers and educators need to understand that virtual learning is significantly different from in-person learning. They said the length of learning hours, learning activities and interactivity and engagement should be incorporated into the way students learn in a remote format.

Digital inclusion and technology literacy:

Access to the internet and digital devices is not uniform. In some contexts teachers do not have access to the Internet or the technology and need to be provided training. The learning curve for students is also high and policy makers and educational boards need to invest in training for a more digitally inclusive future. Students acknowledged that COVID-19 caught the world by surprise, but that we could only expect future crises that would take children out of schools. They talked about investing in analogous methods of teaching such as through public radio and television to reach more students, especially in rural areas.

Winning Entries:

Learning after COVID-19: An education proposal

Online learning: The "trojan horse" of education

On behalf of my generation


Arathi Sundaravadanan

Senior External Affairs Officer, World Bank

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