Covid-19 and the non-state education sector

Anna Riggall
Elnaz Kashefpakdel
Joel Mullan

Kavita Rajagopalan

Peter Sutoris

Astrid Korin

The non-state sector provides the only meaningful option for children’s learning in many parts of the world – particularly in low-income countries where government-run systems are often overwhelmed and unable to keep up with the demand for education – but it receives little attention in policy and research.

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the non-state sector has been heavily affected by lockdowns, school closures and the wider impact of the pandemic on economies and societies. Yet, to date, relatively little has been published about how non-state schools have responded to these challenges.  In response, Education Development Trust and the Global Schools Forum have worked in partnership, studying schools in 17 countries, to generate an understanding of the impact of the pandemic on these schools, to investigate examples of creative practices schools have used to adapt, and to highlight the areas in which intervention is needed to help sustain the sector, and with it, the learning of millions of children who rely on it.

Key findings from the research

  • More than 3 in 4 schools surveyed are experiencing financial difficulties, caused by reduced income from fees, and a need to meet costs associated with delivering learning in new ways during closures and implementing safety measures prior to re-opening. Networks with fewer schools, schools with lower enrolment, and schools that charge lower fees reported the greatest impact on their income. 

  • More than 1 in 3 schools surveyed reported that teachers had resigned or been made redundant during the pandemic. Many teachers had not received their full salary. It remains to be seen whether teachers will return to the profession once schools re-open, or whether this will have longer-term implications for the supply of teachers in low-income countries, compounding the “learning crisis” that existed prior to COVID-19.

  • School leaders surveyed estimated that children had lost between 5 and 8 months of learning, a figure that will inevitably have increased since the data was collected in April 2021.

  • Schools reported mixed experiences in maintaining students' access to learning during closures. Whilst over half of school leaders surveyed in India reported that the majority of their students were able to keep learning during closures, this benchmark was achieved by only 11 out of 60 Nigerian schools surveyed and 3 of 60 Kenyan schools surveyed. Among GSF school operators, 21 of out 22 maintained learners' access to education for the majority of students, with 14 of these reporting that access was maintained for more than three quarters of their students. 

Read the full report for more detail and our policy recommendations.