School Closures Could Lead to a $15.3 Trillion Economic Loss in the US


According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), disruption to children’s schooling due to the pandemic could represent lower global economic growth for the rest of the century. 

The intergovernmental economic organization claimed this massive decline in economic growth would be proportionate to a loss of around $15.3 trillion for the US economy. This figure is expected to increase should interruption to schooling extends into the next academic year.

The OECD paper assumed US students have a “corona-induced loss of skills” and predicted how these learners’ missing out on one-third of the school year would affect the global economy in the future.

The economic organization explained that this tremendous loss of time in the classroom would result in a loss of skills and would greatly reduce productivity. Consequently, the total cost of losing out on education could be equivalent to 69% of the present GDP for the typical country.

Governments across the world were forced to close schools for around 10 weeks to contain the spread of COVID-19. This action had the unwanted side-effect of widening the gap in educational accessibility between the poor and rich. Children with access to the internet, tech devices, and a stable home environment have been better equipped to manage the crisis.

“Students from privileged backgrounds … could find their way past closed school doors to alternative learning opportunities. Those from disadvantaged backgrounds often remained shut out when their schools shut down,” the OECD report said.

Despite the reopening of schools in many countries, the challenge of reopening without causing a new wave of infections remains.

Since economies are shrinking, education budgets are likely to be downsized too, the report said. In light of this, universities and other educational institutions will have to reinvent themselves in order to stay appealing and inviting to students. This initiative is especially crucial given the fact that they may not be able to provide the traditional campus experience, particularly face-to-face classes.

For months now, most students around the world have been studying at home, with a lot of schools only staying open to the children of essential workers. Worries have been raised that this extended period of homeschooling may have aggravated learning gaps already present before the coronavirus pandemic. 

According to the OECD, teachers have made a collaborative effort to keep class morale high during this period of homeschooling, but students have had to depend more on their own ways and means to study remotely. In the absence of an effective vaccine, the report suggested continuing the research and development for homeschooling to reduce further stumbling blocks in education.

“There are evident benefits to students in expanding their learning time and opportunities beyond the school gate by being able to learn using a variety of distance learning approaches,” the OECD said.