Resilience in Return to Learning
Lessons from Education Sector Responses to COVID-19 in Five Countries
This blog was derived from the Resilience in Return to Learning Case Study Synthesis Report prepared by GK Consulting. The Synthesis covers a collection of five case studies that examined the return to learning process during the COVID-19 pandemic in Colombia, Georgia, Lebanon, Nigeria, and Zambia.
Nearly 1.6 billion children and youth are returning to learning following disruptions to their education resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021. Global school closures interrupted and influenced children’s learning, well-being, and protection; these impacts disproportionately affected the most marginalized learners. To better document and learn from this unprecedented crisis, USAID funded GK Consulting to conduct case study research across five countries, resulting in the Resilience in Return to Learning Case Studies.
Return To Learning Series: Case Studies and SynthesisLearn More
Each of the case studies examines, describes, and analyzes the specific localized processes and decision-making of education system stakeholders from March 2020 to April 2021. The case studies encountered notable examples of education stakeholders leveraging the expertise, resources, and mechanisms available to them to adapt their responses as the pandemic continued. These “pockets of promise,” presented opportunities for further engagement and development moving forward in order to maintain or accelerate progress toward education outcomes.
While the case studies highlight only short-term implications of COVID-19 on education, there are several important findings, insights, and recommendations that may be of use to education stakeholders eager to further operationalize resilience in policies or programs. This summary is based on those recommendations.
COVID-19 must be understood today as more of a long-term stressor on education systems globally than just an acute shock. Intersections among health, social protection, livelihoods, and education programming are important to consider when weighing current and potential future risks to investments. Attention should focus on a continuum of preparedness, response and recovery, and take a longer-term approach, particularly in many of the multi-hazard, complex crises contexts where COVID-19 is just one of many ongoing stressors on education (and other) systems.
The resilience of the education system during COVID-19 was deeply interconnected with other, ongoing shocks and stressors specific to that location. When responding to a crisis like COVID-19, immediate assessments and analyses should be considered, alongside sectoral and country-level assessments of risks and incentives, as well as capacities for change. Emphasis should be placed on risk-informed planning and strengthening utilization of analytical tools such as the Rapid Education Risk Analysis tool that capture dimensions of risk and resilience and to reevaluate and refer back to as part of formulating responses to any shock.
A starting point for response efforts should be understanding which populations are most exposed and most sensitive to the particular set of risk factors. The pandemic has not affected all learners and communities equally. More holistic response efforts will reduce these populations’ exposure to health and education-related risks, as well as their sensitivity to the effects of school closures or the continuance of hybrid learning.
Pre-crisis resilience capacities significantly impact resilience trajectories. The ability to protect learning and well-being outcomes may be mediated by the complexity, intensity, duration, and scale of a given shock or set of stressors. Local strategies, networks, and support to learners must be linked up, reinforced and managed in a way that enables flexibility and accounts for successes as well as barriers and challenges.
There is an opportunity to incorporate more adaptive and transformative solutions for endemic educational challenges within national systems. It is vital that learning from the experiences of COVID-19 response (and other shocks/stressors) feed into future crisis response planning or policy. This learning can help explain how and why specific communities, populations, or systems were able to maintain well-being and learning outcomes in the midst of the pandemic and consider how these mechanisms could be better supported within national priorities and planning.
A diversity of actors and approaches across the education system support resilience of the education system as a whole. Working in partnership with local civil society and non-government partners, alongside strategic investments with government and systems-strengthening, is essential to ensure accountability and appropriate support for decentralized structures, systems, and decision-making. Investments in localized networks, organizations, and structures also help address the needs of learners outside of ministry-led responses.
Building resilience is a long-term, cross-sectoral, and context-specific process. The Agency’s 2018 Education Policy has the flexibility needed to work with other sectors such as social protection, health, livelihoods, and governance to maintain and improve well-being in the midst of a crisis. This work can have important, positive impacts on resilience outcomes for the education system.
The Importance of Building Resilience into Education SystemsRead More
The relationship between education system resilience and wider societal resilience will (and should) be further emphasized. More research is needed to understand how learning is both mediated by and influenced by issues like trust in government overall. Programs and strategies designed to strengthen institutional governance and public trust should include investments in education, especially support for local education stakeholders (parents, community leaders, educators).
Learn more about Resilience in Return to Learning:
- Return to Learning During COVID-19 Toolkit
- COVID-19: Policy Brief and Recommendations
- COVID-19 Resources Collection
- Transforming Systems in Times of Resilience: Education & Resilience White Paper
- Learning Summary: The Importance of Building Resilience in Education Systems
- Toolkit for Designing a Comprehensive Distance Learning Strategy
- Social Emotional Learning Distance Learning Activity Pack
- Strategies for Accelerating Learning Post-Crisis