School Closures in India One of the Longest Globally 

Schools across most states shut for 400+ days*

March 2020

Schools shut down in India  

October 2020

Few Indian states begin re-opening schools forsenior grades

March 2021

Wave 2 causes schools to shut down again

210+ days of school closure

Evidence suggests that learning loss from crises can be long-term (RISE, 2020). Moreover, learning loss is likely to be higher in children from early grades
(UNESCO, 2020).

*As of June 2021

No. of days schools remained closed around the world**

Source: Unicef, 2021          ** Between March 2020 and February 2021

School Closures Caused Significant Learning Loss

At the global level, Covid-19 could result in a learning loss between 0.3 and 0.9 years of schooling, adjusted for quality.
(World Bank, 2020)

92% of children in grade 2, 89% in grade 3, 90% in
grade 4, 95% in grade 5, and 93% in grade 6 have lost at least one specific ability in language (reading, writing, oral communication) from the previous year.

In India, school closures have impacted around 250 million elementary and secondary school students. Among other impacts, this entails a huge loss in foundational learning.
(Unicef Press Release, 2021)

67% of children in grade 2, 76% in grade 3, 85% in grade 4, 89% in grade 5, and 89% in grade 6 have lost at least one specific ability in mathematics (arithmetic operations, data interpretation, understanding 2D/3D visuals, etc.) from the previous year.

Prolonged School Closures May Affect Children Beyond Learning Loss

School Closures Disrupted Teaching Time

School closures lead to disruption in instructional time, which can have the following effects:

  • Severely impacts child’s ability to learn
  • Potential increase in school dropouts as past evidence suggests that short term disruption in schooling often leads to permanent dropouts, especially among the disadvantaged (Reddy and Sinha, 2010)
  • Disruption of school-based services like immunization
  • Disruption of school meal programmes affects nutritional status of students (The Hindu, 2020)
  • School closures can lead to mental health issues arising from stress and anxiety due to loss of peer interaction
  • Potential increase in child labour (Bhardwaj et al, 2019) and early marriage of girls (IndiaSpend, 2020)

Vulnerable groups might be disproportionately affected by school closures

  • Girls, as they are likely to be left out of household resource allocation (Prakash et al. 2017)
  • Migrant children
  • Children with disabilities
  • Children affected with trauma/mental health issues

Re-opening Schools: Decision to be Made under Imperfect Information
School re-opening is a balancing act between stemming and reversing learning loss due to school closures and mitigating the health risks of re-opening them during a pandemic



  • Primary risk of children contracting Covid-19 in school and transmitting it further to their families or community
  • Schools may not have physical resources (e.g. enough classrooms) and capacity (e.g. enough teachers and school staff) to re-open safely

Mitigates the impact of school closure on:

  • Child’s learning
  • Child’s nutrition
  • Mental and physical well-being of students, parents, and teachers
  • Marginalised and vulnerable students
  • Students with disabilities

Factors to consider when deciding to re-open schools

  • Transmission intensity of Covid-19 in the school neighbourhoods
  • Capacity of school(s) to operate safely
  • Effectiveness of remote learning strategies
  • Public health measures implemented outside and inside the school
  • Transportation to and from school

Central Guidance on School Re-opening

Ministry of Education’s Guidelines for
School Re-opening  

Salient Features of Centre’s Guidelines
for School Re-opening

Part I: SOPs for Health, Hygiene& Safety

SOP and Safety protocols:

  • Before opening schools
  • After opening schools
  • For serving mid-day meals
  • States hold autonomy over timing and manner of re-opening schools, depending upon local Covid-19 situation
  • When schools re-open, attendance will not be enforced & will depend entirely on parental consent
  • Suggestion to realign academic calendar with emerging situation
  • Emphasis on making syllabus learning outcome-based rather than theme-based
  • Focus on formative assessment to ensure achievement of learning goals. However, pen & paper tests are discouraged
  • Suggestion to build capacity of all stakeholders – DIET faculty, school heads, teachers & parents – before re-opening schools

Part II: Learningwith Physical/Social Distancing

  • Redefining teaching, learning & assessments with focus on learning outcomes
  • Transition from home-based schooling during lockdown(s) to classrooms
  • Emotional well-being of students & teachers
  • Roles & responsibilities of State/UT Education Department
  • Checklist for safe school environment
  • Capacity building of stakeholders

Learnings from around the Globe
Many countries have re-opened schools by adopting measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19

Status of school closures as of July 1, 2021

Salient Features of Centre’s Guidelines for School Re-opening

  • Data shows closing schools may have negligible effect on limiting the spread of Covid-19
  • While re-opening schools, some countries like Belgium, Norway & Switzerland have focused on younger children, as they cannot learn autonomously and need in-person support
  • Evidence from countries suggests that the most important factor to successful
    re-opening is a low baseline rate of community transmission
  • Physical distancing is a common feature of school re-opening programmes across countries. Some countries, like the UK,  have also experimented with innovative approaches like ‘bubbles’
  • Many countries have reduced class sizes by as much as 50% through staggered schedules or alternating classes, prioritizing the education sector in their recovery plans

Source: Global Monitoring of School Closures, UNESCO

Children younger than 10 years are less likely than adults to transmit the virus, while older children may transmit it at levels similar to adults(Park et al, 2020)

Measures adopted by countries to prevent spread of Covid-19 while re-opening schools

  • Mandatory masks & regular temperature check
  • Prioritizing vulnerable students
  • Social distancing
  • Decreasing capacity of classrooms
  • Holding classes outdoors
  • Covid-19 testing
  • Hybrid model of classroom and remote learning

Health Risks of Re-opening Schools
School re-opening involves mitigating health risks; Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs) face a different set of challenges for mitigating these risks

Evidence from developed countries on Covid-19 health risks from re-opening schools

Considerations for LMICs

  • Data from previous virus outbreaks suggests school children might play negligible role in transmitting virus (Viner et al, 2020)
  • Children may have Covid-19 viral load similar to adults, but are half as susceptible to developing severe acute respiratory syndrome (Jones et al, 2020; Davies et al, 2020)
  • Data on transmission through children is limited, but data from population-based contract tracing in Australian schools found almost no transmission
    (NSW Government, 2020)
  • Research from Spain found no evidence of either the increase in Covid-19 cases in the region after schools re-opened or a spike in cases that coincided with school re-opening (Alvarez et al, 2020)

Despite the evidence from developed countries, LMICs face a different set of challenges for mitigating health risks:

  • LMICs have much higher proportions of children in their population, smaller proportions of the elderly, and high number of intergenerational families. Thus, school related transmission risks can be significant
  • Impacts of school closures on virus transmission depend on effectiveness of approaches to social distancing while children are at home:
    - However, observing Covid-19 precautions, especially social distancing, is difficult in LMICs due to population density      
    - People have to leave homes for livelihoods and necessities, increasing potential exposure of children to Covid-19

Children Want to Return to Schools
Students want their schools to re-open as they’ll learn better in schools than at home

*N= 2774         **N=2003

Health Risks Remain Top Concern
But students also worry about the health risks associated with re-opening of schools

*N= 2774         **N=2003

Households Vote for Schools Re-opening
Most parents consider re-opening schools as important for the continued education of their children

Support for Teachers Crucial after Schools Re-open
Recent data suggests that teachers will require significant support to continueremote learning, as well as when schools re-open

Support required by teachers when schools re-open

Support required by teachers to continueremote leaning

Importance of Multi-modal Home Learning Programme
Following the second wave of Covid-19, a phased, multi-modal home learning programme for all children irrespective of access is critical to ensure learning continuity

Phase 1

Complete lockdown wherepeople are confined to their homes

Phase 1

Complete lockdown wherepeople are confined to their homes

Phase 1

Complete lockdown wherepeople are confined to their homes

Phase 1

Complete lockdown wherepeople are confined to their homes

Only online learning material

Online + physical learning material

Online + physical learning material + community classes

Schools re-open in phased manner

Considerations for States Re-opening Schools

Schools Need Infrastructure & Capacity to Re-open Safely
As states prepare to re-open schools, their infrastructure and capacity to implement socially distanced classes and blended models of learning would be crucial

WASH facilities

Drinking water, functional toilets, and hand wash facilities will be essential as schools re-open safely. Only 52% of schools in India have overall WASH facilities.
(U-DISE, 2018)


Out of the total 15.1 lakh schools in India:

  • 55,226 or 3.7% schools are single classroom schools.
  • In nearly 1.2 lakh or 7.4% of total schools more than 50 students sit in one classroom. (U-DISE, 2018)

Logistics of conducting classes as per safety protocols

Capacity for blended learning

  • Teachers’ capacity to adopt innovative teaching-learning practices
  • Curriculum that is adapted to address children’s learning loss during school closures and learning needs going forward


Vaccination of students, teachers, and staff is critical for the schools to re-open safely. While children are not yet eligible, As of 21st July, 2021, India has fully vaccinated approximately 8.5 crore adults, and 32.5 crore with the first dose. India has a total of 92 lakh teachers (62 lakh above 55 years) and 62 lakh support staff members.(MOHFW, 2021, May 22), (U-DISE, 2018)

Importance of Re-enrollment Strategies
Developing re-enrollment strategies will be key to bring back drop-outs

Bringing back drop-outs

Re-enrollment strategies adopted internationally

Several students, who are now breadwinners for their families, have migrated to different cities, or cannot afford to return to school and are estimated to have dropped out

Gobally, 24 million students are estimated to  have dropped out of schools because of the pandemic in 2020 (UNESCO, 2020)

Girls are at risk of early marriages, or required to help with domestic chores. In India, 10 million girls are at risk of dropping out of schools. (Frontline, The Hindu, 2020)

USA (Virginia)

  • Online pre-learning offered to encourage students to come back
  • Jump start & end-of-year packets: Programmes to welcome students with a glimpse of 2021 expectations and to help teachers review needs of students, respectively

Canada (British Columbia)

Announcement of guidelines of re-opening schools accompanied by sessions to answer questions and reassure parents of the safety of returning to schools

The Philippines

Flexibility: Enrolment allowed even after schoool re-opening, enrolment forms available online and at local kiosks near schools, along with extension of deadlines for submitting necessary documents
Nationwide media campaign: To increase awareness about re-opening schools

Sub-Saharan Africa

In 13 countries, UNICEF, in partnership with Airtel Africa, used mobile technology to transfer cash and encourage re-enrolment and online learning among families

Focus on FLN Skills Critical
Against a backdrop of huge learning losses, remediation will be essential as schools plan to re-open

Why is remediation necessary?

Some remediation programmes  in the Indian context

Out of the total 15.1 lakh schools in India:

  • The Bihar Education Project Council (BEPC) designed a framework to conduct 3 months of catch up classes for students of grades 2-10 starting April 2021. (Hindustan Times, 2021)
  • In 2020, under Mission Prerna, the Uttar Pradesh government announced 40 minute remedial classes daily for students in grades 1-8. (Hindustan Times, 2020, July)
  • The government of Odisha promoted students in grade 1 to 8 to the next grade without examination and announced remedial classes for the first 2 to 3 months in the new academic session (NDTV, April, 2021)

School closures in 2020 caused significant learning loss

Disruption caused by wave 2

Further school closures and learning loss

Loss of two years of education

92% and 82% of students of grades 2-6 have lost at least one specific ability in language and mathematics, respectively, from the previous year. (Azim Premji University, 2021)

Remediation Approaches andChallenges of Implementation
States and other stakeholders can take three broad approaches to remediation, but are likely to face significant implementation challenges

More time

Increase the amount of instructional time to ensure appropriate learning through weekend school, extended school day, or summer school

Dedicated attention

Promote better attention to the learning material through tutoring, peer-to-peer learning, and break-out groups to improve quality of learning

Compressed content

Reduce or revise curriculum to focus on fundamental concepts within the same period

UNSECO, UNICEF and World Bank conducted a survey on National Education Responses to Covid-19School Closures in June-July2020. Of the 117 education systems that participated; 22% planned to increase class time when schools re-opened; 62% planned to introduce a dedicated remedial programme; and 60% planned to restructure the curriculum

Challenges in implementing remediation programmes

  • The need for remediation is not uniform and differs across geographies, between and within schools, and between students
  • Extensive remediation programmes may require significant investment of resources
  • Effective remediation would require a robust monitoring and learning system to be adaptive, which is likely to cause additional strain on schools
  • Given the length of school closures, remediation programmes have to be designed to mitigate the learning loss due to Covid-19, while keeping in mind the need to cover new material

Examples from around the World
Some examples of how countries have approached remediation & key features of their re-learning programmes

Global approaches towards remediation*

USA (Maryland)

  • Extended school days: Early morning, afternoon, Saturday school, night classes, summer programmes, etc.
  • Hybrid programmes: Only one working day, one day dedicated to remediation


  • Increased recruitment of teachers: Especially at the primary level to reduce average number of students per teacher and allow dedicated attention


  • Administration decided to measure learning loss of students via parental engagement and remote assessments
  • Extra support offered via extension of school year to the summer, Saturday school, on-demand self-learning platforms, summer camps, etc.

The Philippines

  • Remedial classes for 6 weeks for students with grades lesser than 75%
  • Government allowed schools to be exempted from this plan and independently structure remedial classes over the next academic year, provided schools had implementation plans in place

          Key features of remediation
          responses of other countries

  • Assessment of learning loss
  • Targeted instruction and accordingly redesigning curricula for the current and next academic years
  • Hiring more teachers to provide concentrated instruction for students

Prioritize Opening Schools forEarly Grades
As States and UTs consider re-opening schools, priority should be given to opening schools for early grades

Rationale for re-opening
schools for early grades
on priority

Younger children (<9 years) are less susceptible to Covid-19 than 10-14 year olds (Goldstein et al., 2020)

Younger children are less likely to learn or retain what they have learnt through remote learning compared to adult learners (Kim, 2020)

Foundational learning in early grades form the basis of all learning and is crucial for development of human capital

To ensure universal FLN skills in primary schools by 2025 as envisaged in the NEP 2020

Remediation & Support to Reverse Learning Loss
FLN cohorts have been differentially impacted by the pandemic induced school closures and would require grade-specific remediation and bridging support to reverse learning loss

How learning levels will look like for children in the beginning of the grade

Grade 1

Grade 2

Grade 3

Grade 4

Grade 5

Fresh cohort: yet to join school

No classroom instruction at all

No classroom instruction at all

Loss of 2 years’ instruction.
Went to school in G-1

Loss of 2 years’ instruction.
Went to school in G-1&2

Need a strong 2-year bridging program to support students achieve FLN outcomes. Prioritised learning outcomes for 2 years.

Need strong and longer remediation on FLN and then year long bridging support. Prioritised learning outcomes for 2 years.

Restructuring Curriculum across Grades
When schools re-open after prolonged closure of almost 2 academic years, multi-year restructuring of curriculum would be required for achieving learning goals

Suggestive cohort based multi-year restructured curriculum for Grade 1-3

Implementing the NIPUN Bharat Programme
States and schools will have to prepare for the implementation of the national FLN mission, NIPUN Bharat

“...create an enabling environment to ensure universal acquisition of foundational literacy and numeracy, so that by 2026-27 every child achieves the desired learning competencies in reading, writing and numeracy at the end of Grade III and not later than Grade V” -NIPUN Bharat Vision

NIPUN Bharat Programme

Academic approaches

LO divided into 3 development goals: Goal 1-HW (Health and Wellbeing), Goal 2-EC(Effective Communicators), Goal 3-IL (Involved Learners)

Lakshya or Targets for Foundational Literacy and Numeracy

Learning Assessments (School Based, and Large-scale standardised assessment)

Pedagogy for creating inclusive classroom

Out of the to Empowering teachers through FLN specific training via NISHTHA

Expanding the scope and use of DIKSHA for FLN

3month play-based school preparation module

Academic approaches

Five-tier implementation mechanism for FLN Mission to be set up at theNational-State-District-Block-School level

Monitoring and information technology framework (Annual Monitoring Surveys and ConcurrentMonitoring)

Clear articulation of the role and responsibilities of States in achieving the FLNMission goals

Emphasises on the need for active involvement of Teachers, Parents, Community, and Local Bodies to achieve FLN Mission objectives


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