We cannot return to the world as it was before

November 5, 2021

According to data collected by Brookings.edu, this data is from the beginning of the 2019-20 school year (before COVID-19 school closures) through the start of the 2020-21 school year.  In mathematics, students may show even smaller learning gains from the previous year, returning with less than 50% of the gains. In lower grades, students may be nearly a full year behind in math compared to what we would observe in normal conditions. Similar estimates of learning loss based on research showing the effect of being absent on achievement. That is, we simply assumed students’ learning during COVID-19 school closures would be akin to what occurs when students miss school, a large assumption given the online learning and homeschooling now occurring.

In accordance with the data presented, as schools start to reopen across the globe, governments have also taken action in addressing the loss students faced throughout the pandemic and in hopes to better support our students. For instance, recently the Malaysian government tabled a RM332.1 billion Budget for 2022. The biggest allocation will go towards education with the Ministry of Education receiving RM52.6 billion and its Higher Education counterpart with RM14.5 billion, as millions of students in Malaysia saw their normal schooling disrupted since early 2020.

However, regardless of how much capital is allocated towards education, what are the actions we should take for education post-COVID?

COVID-19 has brought dangerous times for public education, with risks of fragmentation and unravelling as we stand to lose both teachers and students who may not return to schools once they reopen. We should be concerned that we can already hear claims that the current emergency and ad-hoc measures should be transformed into lasting reforms. More and more people are becoming aware of the multiple roles that schools play in providing for the well-being of children and youth, and in ensuring health and nutrition, alongside academic learning. This increased awareness and appreciation can serve as the basis for a new revival of public education. Therefore, how education is shaped shouldn’t be the same as it was before and change towards supporting the generation today as well as being relevant to what today’s world requires.

❝ We call on all education stakeholders to monitor that education resources are used for the sole purpose of advancing the interests and capabilities of learners❞ - UNESCO

Below are one of the key steps we could take in shifting our education landscape in approaching education post-COVID based on a report by UNESCO titled, Education in a post-COVID world: Nine ideas for public action.


This includes, among others, learners of all ages—in ways the right of education might need to be broadened to reflect changing contexts, learning throughout life, and the importance of access to knowledge and information.

Education is a fundamental and universal human right. Societies should make every effort to sustain it, by any means necessary. The COVID-19 crisis has shown us that the right to education needs to be flexible and adapted to different contexts and to the needs of changing societies. An updating and broadening of the right to education has clearly become necessary. Moreover, the pandemic has also revealed the massive importance of digital connectivity and online platforms—to the extent that we need to begin considering access to information, connected to the right to education in ways that were not foreseen even a decade ago. Thus, we should consider ways that the right to education might need to be broadened to encompass fluidity, capillarity and the changing contexts of contemporary societies. This includes expanding how we execute what education should include such as the importance of media for education, culture and general knowledge which is relevant for students to understand in today’s world,


This includes from government officials to teachers to parents, to prioritize the
participation of students and young people broadly in order to co construct with them the change they wish to see.

The exceptional measures related to COVID-19 have indeed put a significant number of people in great discomfort, all over the world. In particular the mental health and well-being of children and youth have been greatly endangered, and in ways that could have lasting repercussions. Not only do we have to reshape schools and the supports we provide them with so that students can resume their learning in classrooms and return to school activities as soon as possible, we also need to think in the medium term so that this out of the ordinary situation young people have experienced becomes an opportunity for learning how to meet the challenges of our time, an opportunity to restore what has been lost and create new and better experiences. Therefore, the participation of children and youth in these deliberations cannot be an afterthought. As but one example, students should be given a leading voice in designing the learning opportunities and learning communities they return to when schools reopen.


This includes educational stakeholders to protect and transform the school as a separate space-time, specific and different from home and other spaces of learning, where there is as much growth and expansion of social understanding as there is acquisition of skills, competencies and knowledge.

Today's educational landscape is undergoing radical transition. Many changes that had been taking place for some time have been accelerated by the pandemic. Increased school awareness and appreciation can serve as the foundation for a new rebirth of public education, one that transforms the concept of schooling. Education and learning are about human interactions, dialogue and exchange. Others are essential to our own learning. Schools are forms of collective living that cannot be replaced by distance or remote learning. For years, we have seen the idea of a single, standardized school model giving rise to a variety of ways of “doing school,” more advanced in some places than in others but nonetheless changing educational landscapes around the world. Therefore, knowing how drastically different circumstances have been for not only our students, but for the rest of the world, the concept of school itself should be relooked and be relevant in today’s world. These are the directions we must move in—based on broader global transformations.

Let’s ponder..

As parents, educators, and guardians, these are concepts that may be implemented and considered in envisioning how our educational landscape could be for the leaders of tomorrow. We are witnessing the most significant shifts in education. The urgent need to improve on the world that existed before us presents us all with a significant challenge and responsibility. We need to build narratives for what the new world might look like. Education must be at the heart of a world post-COVID-19. We need new approaches now to prepare for that future.

Join us in conversation as we explore deeper at Leaps: Episode T!

Constant change calls for a society that can be adaptable to change and innovate new ways of shaping education with the future in mind. How would we design learning environments that help students thrive in tomorrow's world? Let’s explore this further at Leaps: Episode T - Think Ahead and Out of The Box, happening on 27 November 2021!

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Leaps of Knowledge: The HEART Series