Latin America confronts a pandemic education crisis

Latin America (including Costa Rica) is facing an education crisis.

This story is based heavily on this New York Times report. We highly recommend you read it.

Fifteen months after the beginning of the pandemic, Latin America is facing an education crisis.

The region has endured the longest school shutdowns of any region in the world, according to Unicef, which estimates more than 100 million children in Latin America are still in full or partial distance learning.

The consequences are alarming, experts told The New York Times: With economies in the region pummeled by the pandemic and connections to the classroom so badly frayed, children are dropping out in large numbers, sometimes to work.

Millions of children in Latin America may have already left the school system, the World Bank estimates. 

“Each additional day without face-to-face schooling puts the most vulnerable children at risk of dropping out of school forever,” says Jean Gough, Unicef’s regional director.

This onslaught of dropouts threatens to destroy years of progress in education, which could exacerbate inequality and possibly shape the region for decades.

What about in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica opted for distance learning in 2020 with mixed results.

When the pandemic began last March, more than 1 million Costa Rican students received online accounts in order to facilitate their learning. Fewer than 60% of students activated those accounts, meaning some 400,000 children could not or did not fully participate in their schooling.

In 2021, with a vaccine campaign underway, Costa Rica enacted a hybrid model, where students could attend school in-person several days each week.

But that was short-lived; by May, saturated hospitals forced the country to suspend all lessons. They have yet to resume.

In a best-case scenario, Costa Rican schools will be fully in-person in 2022, after nearly two full years of impacts caused by the pandemic.


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