Education Roundtable: The Invisible Toll of Covid-19 on Learning, Lesson Learned, Initiatives, and Problem-Solving

On October 4, 2023, in Bandung, Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia collaborated with the World Bank Indonesia to host an educational roundtable, addressing the learning setbacks faced by Indonesian students due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event was inaugurated by Prof. Dr. M. Solehuddin, the Rector of Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia, and Ms. Bolormaa Amgaabazar, Portfolio and Operations Manager for the World Bank in Indonesia and Timor Leste. The agenda aimed to shed light on the learning loss Indonesian schoolchildren experienced during the pandemic. The discussion focused on the World Bank Indonesia’s role in understanding the hidden consequences of the outbreak. Participants engaged in insightful conversations, both offline and via Zoom, sharing perspectives on the learning loss issue and exploring potential solutions.

Offline participants of the Education Roundtable posed together before the session

The research presentation was delivered by Mr. Shinsaku Nomura, Senior Economist of the World Bank. The research entitled The Invisible Toll of COVID-19 on Learning, which was published as part of the Indonesia Economic Prospect June 2023, shares the idea that school closures and disrupted learning processes affected students’ subject-matter understanding. Indonesia had one of the longest periods of school closure due to the pandemic among Asia Pacific countries, which affected students’ learning process over an extended time. The government has shown effort in mediating the challenges. The research was nationally representative based on 400 school samples. The survey shows that 11 months of learning losses in math and language happened among grade 4 students in Indonesia. Economy inequality, internet connection, and grief of the passing family have also worsened the loss. It is important to note that most of the teachers did not recognize the learning loss and they tended to go back to business-as-usual after school reopening. It is suggested that policymakers and all stakeholders should be conscious of the learning losses and increased inequality in learning outcomes, and take deliberate actions for learning recovery. 

During the discussion, participants addressed the following key points:

  1. Encourage Collaborative Solutions: Participants emphasized the need for increased collaboration to tackle the challenges effectively.
  2. Promote Digital-Based Learning: The importance of implementing digital-based learning methods was highlighted.
  3. Reflect on Prolonged School Closures: There was a collective reflection on the impact of long-term school closures and the need to adjust learning time accordingly.
  4. Flexible Learning Approaches: Suggestions were made to compensate for lost time through flexible schedules and customized learning content, allowing teachers more flexibility.
  5. Maximize Learning Resources: The importance of maximizing available learning materials was stressed.
  6. Individualized Instruction: Participants advocated for differentiated instructions to cater to individual learning needs.
  7. Parental Involvement: The role of parents in assisting students with understanding subject matter was recognized.
  8. Utilize Simple and Accessible Applications: Maximizing the use of user-friendly and accessible applications for learning purposes was suggested.
  9. Understanding Learning Responses: There was a discussion on recognizing diverse learning responses, including motivation levels, anxiety, and boredom.
  10. Regular Reporting: It was emphasized to regularly report on learning losses to maintain awareness of the situation.
  11. In-Depth Understanding over Broad Coverage: Educational institutions were urged to focus on deepening students’ understanding rather than rushing through extensive curriculum coverage.
  12. Assessment Based on Depth: Student achievement assessments were proposed to be based on in-depth understanding rather than surface-level knowledge.
  13. Targeted Recovery: Strategies for recovering learning losses were discussed, emphasizing the need to comprehend specific materials effectively.
  14. Policy Support for Recovery: Policymaker support for recovery learning initiatives was deemed crucial for their success.
  15. Teacher Quality Control: The discussion also touched upon teacher quality control, noting that it had been addressed in the Teacher Professional Program (TPP), but the quality control for teachers not included in TPP had yet to be decided upon.

The decrease in learning among school students has impacted their university education. A mathematics education faculty member participating in the discussion noticed that some students lacked essential skills from high school due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She recommended providing extra support or remedial sessions to help these students bridge their learning gaps.   

The session concluded with a vital message: instead of looking for a single solution, it is crucial to recognize the complexity and multidimensional nature of the challenges at hand. The responsible authorities must fully grasp the context and be willing to experiment with multiple resolutions. Additionally, there is a hope that educators will remain aware of the ongoing disruptive changes within the education sector. Prepared by Intan/ABM.