The transformation of education is as necessary for the educational world as the vaccine to overcome the health crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Thinking about education systems beyond this crisis will allow the setting of new spaces for innovation and the mobilization of countries and educational communities to promote a transformation towards more effective and efficient educational systems.
More than six months have passed since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Latin America and the Caribbean. To date, 16 out of 26 countries in the region are keeping their schools physically closed and without reports of face-to-face classes in the near future. While the educational systems that operate with a northern calendar are preparing for the start of the 2020-2021 school year, schools’ physical reopening has become one of the most recurrent themes on educational policy agendas.
The complexity and uncertainty about the risk of contagion in schools, added to the various responses that governments have had and the spread of the virus in the region, have configured a heterogeneous schools reopening scenario, where inequities have been exposed in the educational systems as never before. The prolonged closure of schools will have an impact on learning, socio-emotional aspects, and future development opportunities for students in Latin America and the Caribbean. Additionally, the economic crisis that the pandemic has brought about will have severe repercussions for the education sector, due to the reduction of income for both governments and families, the impact on education budgets, and the increase in poverty and unemployment.
For this reason, the Education Division of the Inter-American Development Bank is releasing a new series of policy documents available to all countries in the region known as “Let’s talk about education policy.” The new series of documents are presented to the educational community as a contribution to the discussion. The topics selected have been identified as key during the pandemic, and will be of paramount importance for the education sector when analyzing possible scenarios for the reopening of schools and for the post-crisis period. These policy documents will be part of the Division’s knowledge agenda and will also analyze other educational policy issues in Latin America and the Caribbean.
For the new series of documents, we have attempted to select topics that allow a better understanding of the transformations that will take place in education. One of the most evident changes will be seen in the education models that will try to adapt to the educational systems’ needs. For this reason, a comprehensive review of what works in distance education models and its effects on academic results is carried out. Furthermore, taking the hybrid education model as a reference, alternatives are presented to provide education during the crisis.
The crisis effects on learning and socioeconomic learning gaps, school dropout, and social-emotional skills and mental health will also be explored. Likewise, the issues of the recession induced by COVID-19 on educational financing, private education and higher education will also be addressed. This selection of topics seek to present proposals and evidence for what education will be like in Latin America and the Caribbean during and after the crisis.
The pandemic also highlighted the existence of some forms of educational exclusion and inequalities present in all countries. In a crisis scenario, the governments’ role becomes increasingly complex and decisions on education are highly sensitive and impact a large percentage of the population. For this reason, the series “Let’s Talk about Educational Policy” seeks to provide a bridge between the evidence collected by the Education Division and the work of those responsible for educational policy.
Thinking about education in a post-pandemic scenario and designing programs and policies that support the education sector’s transformation is crucial since the world will face a generalized economic crisis and a more complex reality in all areas. That is the expectation of the series “Let’s Talk about Educational Policy” which we hope will be one more useful input for decision-making in educational policy in Latin America and the Caribbean.
What other topics do you think need to be addressed in the series? Please leave us your comments in the section below or on Twitter mentioning @BIDeducacion #Enfoqueeducacion.
 Information collected by the Education Division of the Inter-American Development Bank. This information was updated on September 15, 2020.
 The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Ecuador (Sierra Region), Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela.