India Needs To Learn - A Case for Keeping Schools Open

Seema Bansal Diksha Bahl

India has now had Covid-driven school closures for ~2 years. Schools in India were mostly shut from March 2020 till the end of the year and in 2021, we witnessed small phases of opening of Indian schools. While secondary schools were open for 40-50% time, elementary schools have mostly remained shut in most Indian states. In a country where 40-70% of children don’t have access to a smart device, schools resorting to online learning has led to a major share of kids being left out. Initial data seems to suggest that ~90% children lost at least one specific language ability. In fact, research by World Bank suggests that every year of schooling lost will potentially translate to ~9% lower future earnings for a student – compounding to devastating impact on future GDP.

BCG, in collaboration with Teach for India, has released a report “India Needs To Learn - A Case for Keeping Schools Open”. The report presents a comparison of how other countries have dealt with school closing and opening decisions during the pandemic, the response across Indian states (including school opening status, linkage of school re-opening to disease progression etc) and the public health arguments at play on this decision to finally propose the imperatives for India to build back better.

The report advocates that schools should be the “last to close, and first to open” and this needs to be supported by 4 key implications for India: (1) Decentralize school opening/closing decision to ward/Gram Panchayat/School level (2) Offer blended learning construct through the year (3) Strengthen testing, vaccination, safety protocol and ventilation (4) Prepare to bridge learning gaps leveraging sufficient resource allocation over mid-term.

Social Impact and Sustainability