Education disrupted: The second year of the COVID-19 pandemic and school closures

September 15, 2021

Schoolchildren around the world have lost an estimated 1.8 trillion hours – and counting – of in-person learning since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. As a result, young learners have been cut off from their education and the other vital benefits schools provide. Every hour in school is precious, and every child should be given the opportunity to go back to school. As countries return from academic break, no effort should be spared to reopen schools, as schools are critical for children’s learning, safety, health and well-being.


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Number of students affected by prolonged school closures

Globally, around 131 million schoolchildren in 11 countries have missed three quarters of their in-person learning from March 2020 to September 2021. Among them, 59 per cent – or nearly 77 million – have missed almost all in-person instruction time. These 77 million students come from six countries. Among these countries, Bangladesh and the Philippines represent 62 million of the 77 million learners impacted. Around 27 per cent of countries continue to have schools fully or partially closed. Additionally, according to UNESCO’s latest data, more than 870 million students at all levels are currently facing disruptions to their education.

School closures: Where do we stand today?

As of September 2021, the data indicates school closures due to COVID-19 continue to be in place in many countries. Almost a year and a half since the pandemic was declared, 27 per cent of the countries continued to be fully or partially closed.  Moreover, regional differences persist with full school closures being observed in 4 of the 9 regions. In two regions, a higher share of countries are keeping their schools fully closed in September 2021 than in February 2021: South Asia (increased from 18 per cent to 25 per cent); and East Asia and the Pacific (increased from 6 per cent to 21 per cent). In Latin America and the Caribbean and Eastern and Southern Africa, however, the share of countries where schools are fully closed declined between February 2021 and September 2021. Overall, there is no region where all countries have fully reopened schools.