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Experts Available for Comment: International Education Disparities, Learning Loss Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. --As academic institutions head into the new year during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is uncertainty around how school systems will operate and effectively educate students. Outside of the U.S., multiple disparities exist in the international education system and many do not have access to virtual learning platforms. RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, has two experts available to comment on the uncertainty and impact surrounding international education during the COVID-19 pandemic outside of the U.S.

The United Nations’ Education Agency, UNESCO, released figures that nearly half of all students across the globe do not have access to a computer at home. This is especially prevalent in sub-Sahara Africa where over 80% of the population does not have internet access. Outside of the U.S., Mexico’s Governor recently announced that classes for students will be broadcasted on television, while Kenya declared that students would have to repeat the year to make up for time lost.

Benjamin Piper, senior director of RTI’s Africa Education program can speak to the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on academic systems across low- and middle-income countries. He is the Principal Investigator of Learning @ Scale, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is examining the eight most effective large-scale programs in the world. He is also leading the Lego Foundation study of playful pedagogy across five low- and middle-income countries. He has experience in education policy support in many low- and middle-income countries and evaluating education programs using a variety of research methods. Dr. Piper was also the Chief of Party of the Tusome national early grade reading program in Kenya. Dr. Piper can speak to what the school year will look like for students throughout Africa, the disparities they face, and the expanding education crisis because of COVID-19.  

Joseph DeStefano, senior director of policy, systems, and governance in RTI’s International Education program has over thirty years of experience in a range of K-12 education issues, including education reform and capacity building. DeStefano is spearheading RTI’s learning loss research, showing the impact of COVID-19 related closures on students internationally. Research so far has shown that a 20-week interruption on schooling could lead to a loss of almost 50 percent of the prior years’ literacy development. The learning loss research aims to inform re-opening plans considering students from disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as provide adjustments for educators and education programs to ensure realistic changes to learning programs.

To set up an interview, please contact news@rti.org