2. Introduction

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected children’s educational outcomes. To contain the spread of the virus, the schools were closed in countries around the world starting in February 2020 and between February 2020 and August 2021 schools were fully closed for 121 days and partially closed for 103 days on average.[1] Due to the disruptions in face-to-face education, UNESCO estimates that almost 100 million children would fall below the proficiency threshold in reading due to loss of contact time at school.[2] It is further estimated that this generation of students could lose $17 trillion in lifetime earnings due to learning losses, making 14% of global GDP today.[3] Learning poverty in low and middle-income countries is also estimated to rise to 70%, up from its pre-pandemic level of 53%.[4] Findings from emerging learning assessments show that children are experiencing considerable learning losses in countries including Brazil, South Africa and Russia.[5] The impact of the pandemic has also not been equal due to existing inequalities for children in terms of household socioeconomic status and learning environment within the household as well as different responses adopted by governments in terms of school closures and distance learning measures.[6]


Figure 1 Among 210 countries, Turkey is in the top 30% of countries with the longest duration of school closures between March 2020 and August 2021

Number of weeks schools were fully or partially closed in 2020 and 2021, between March 2020 and August 2021


Source: UNESCO. (2022). UNESCO global dataset on the duration of   school closures. Accessed from: https://en.unesco.org/covid19/educationresponse

Source: UNESCO. (2022). UNESCO global dataset on the duration of school closures. Accessed from: https://en.unesco.org/covid19/educationresponse


In Turkey, schools were closed on March 16, 2020, and with partial openings occasionally occurring for all grades or for certain grades, they have remained largely closed to face-to-face education for the second half of the 2019-2020 academic year as well as through much of the 2020-2021 academic year.[7] In 2020 and 2021, in Turkey, schools were fully or partially closed for 49 weeks, which is higher than the world average of 34 weeks (See Figure 1). Among 210 countries, Turkey is in the top 30% of countries with the longest duration of school closures. Focusing on OECD countries, the number of instruction days schools were "fully closed" or "partially open” was higher (between 62 and 84 days longer) in Turkey compared to OECD averages for all education levels.[8] The disruption in face-to-face education ended with the first semester of the 2021-2022 academic year, which continued face-to-face without any interruptions for all school levels.[9]


Figure 2 Number of instruction days schools were "fully closed" or "partially open” was much higher in Turkey compared to OECD averages

Number of instruction days schools were "fully closed" and "partially open" in 2020 and 2021, between 1 January 2020 and 20 May 2021


Source:   OECD. (2021). The State of Global Education. Paris: OECD

Source: OECD. (2021). The State of Global Education. Paris: OECD


As a policy response, during the pandemic, Turkey implemented a remote learning system through the online platform EBA and EBA TV.[10] As of June 18, 2021, EBA, had 14.1 million active students and 1.2 million active teachers.[11] Before the pandemic, in the 2019-2020 academic year, a total of 16.6 million students were registered in primary, lower secondary and upper secondary education in Turkey, and a total of 16.9 million students were registered during the 2020-2021 academic year.[12] Hence there was a considerable gap between the number of students using the EBA platform and the number of students enrolled in the educational system during the previous two academic years. In late March 2021, the Minister of National Education stated that in the first semester of the 2020-2021 education year, the attendance rates for online live classes were 66 per cent for primary education, 73 per cent for secondary education and 77 per cent for high school education.[13] Hence, a significant per cent of children did not have access to the live classes held by the teachers. According to a study conducted by Eğitim-Sen in April 2021, access to online education remained limited among students even a year after the start of the pandemic.[14] According to the results of the online survey collected from 3,743 teachers across different grades from early childhood education to high school, 71 per cent of the teachers reported that 'at most half of the class was attending the online classes. Teachers also reported "students not having the adequate infrastructure to be able to attend online classes" and "children not being able to learn properly during online courses" were the most pressing problems related to online education[15].


Given this background, this study aims (i) to understand and document the policies implemented so far, the challenges faced by children, teachers and schools during the extended period of school closures in Turkey and (ii) to estimate the impact of the COVID pandemic on children’s education outcomes and identify risk groups. The study uses a mixed-methods approach to review and analyse the existing data and documents while also collecting primary qualitative data from stakeholders and experts. The methodological tools that have been used for the study are (i) Desk review, (ii) Quantitative Data Analysis (Analysis of DHS 2018 and PISA 2018 datasets) and (iii) Qualitative Data Collection and Analysis through KIIs with Stakeholders. In the absence of primary data collected on the current situation on children’s learning outcomes, drop out rates or engagement in child labour, simulations and estimations on these indicators using existing household level datasets and identifying the characteristics of children who are most at risk are presented in order to highlight the degree of the problem and the child groups that are likely to be most affected.



References

[1] The World Bank, UNESCO and UNICEF (2021). The State of the Global Education Crisis: A Path to Recovery. Washington D.C., Paris, New York: The World Bank, UNESCO, and UNICEF. [2] UNESCO Institute for Statistics. (2021). Pandemic‐related disruptions to schooling and impacts on learning proficiency indicators: A focus on early grades. Montreal: UNESCO-UIS. [3] The World Bank, UNESCO and UNICEF (2021). The State of the Global Education Crisis: A Path to Recovery. Washington D.C., Paris, New York: The World Bank, UNESCO, and UNICEF. [4] Ibid. [5] Ibid. [6] Azevedo, J. P., Gutierrez, M., Hoyos, R. D., & Saavedra, J. (2022). The Unequal Impacts of COVID-19 on Student Learning. In Primary and Secondary Education During Covid-19 (pp. 421-459). Springer, Cham. [7] According to data from Oxford Government Response Tracker. https://ourworldindata.org/covid-school-workplace-closures [8] OECD. (2021). The State of Global Education: 18 Months into the Pandemic, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/1a23bb23-en. [9] TEDMEM. (2022). 2021 eğitim değerlendirme raporu (TEDMEM Değerlendirme Dizisi 8). Ankara: TEDMEM [10] ERG. (2020). Öğrenciler ve Eğitime Erişim Eğitim İzleme Raporu 2020. Istanbul: ERG [11] MEB. (2021, October 27). Sayilarla uzaktan egitim. MEB. Retrived from: http://yegitek.meb.gov.tr/www/sayilarla-uzaktan-egitim/icerik/3225 [12] MEB. (2020). 2019-20 MEB İstatistikleri: Örgün Eğitim. Ankara: MEB. MEB. (2021). 2020-21 MEB İstatistikleri: Örgün Eğitim. Ankara: MEB. Calculated using number of students in primary school, junior high school, general secondary education and vocational and technical secondary education. [13] T24. (2021, March 23). Milli Eğitim Bakanı Selçuk: Uzaktan eğitim artık kalıcı olacak. T24. Retrieved from: https://t24.com.tr/haber/milli-egitim-bakani-selcuk-uzaktan-egitim-artik-kalici-olacak,940884 [14] Eğitim Sen. (2021). Eğitim-Sen Uzaktan Eğitime Yakından Bakıyor. Ankara: Turkey. [15] Ibid.