Recovering from the impact of COVID-19 school closures in Indonesia

Indonesia’s schools were shut down with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, sparking a sudden shift to distance learning that impacted the education and well-being of 68.8 million students.

A World Bank study has found that this shift resulted in an estimated learning loss of between 0.9 and 1.2 years and a 25 to 35 point drop in reading ability on the PISA reading performance program by June 2021. There have been further losses since Study expected to be completed as school closures continued into early 2022. The study also found that the students suffered from psychosocial well-being and physical health issues during the COVID-19 pandemic.

After technical discussions with the Indonesian Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology (MoECRT), the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) and private education companies, the World Bank has released three technical notices on learning recovery in Indonesia: 1) Framework for Learning Recovery During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond, 2) Technical Note on Effective Hybrid Learning with EdTech, 3) Technical Note on Psychosocial Support During and After the Covid-19 Pandemic. These three notes consider solutions for providing continuing education services and supporting the psychosocial well-being of students and educational stakeholders.

While many schools and madrassas (religious schools) reopened in time for the 2022 school year, MoRA and the World Bank team have been able to support learning recovery through the ongoing Realizing Education’s Promise – Madrasah Education Quality Reform (REP MEQR) project. This project has been able to respond to the pandemic by increasing the use of educational technology and promoting the restoration of students’ psychosocial well-being. The project also conducted a student learning assessment after school closures to determine how classroom activities can be adapted to student needs.

Key findings and recommendations from the study and technical notes:

1: Framework for Learning Recovery During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond

Based on the World Bank’s global RAPID framework for Learning Recovery and Acceleration, this note identifies several key levers for learning recovery. This includes conducting learning assessments, adapting curricula and supporting teacher development. The government of Indonesia and schools/madresses have made strides to mitigate learning losses by simplifying curricula for such circumstances; Increasing the effectiveness of teaching through a new Teacher Professional Development (TPD) program; and extension of class time through tutoring. To build on this, national and sub-national governments should monitor policy implementation and consider a broader range of options to further reduce learning losses and accelerate student learning recovery.

2: Effective hybrid learning with EdTech

This notice provides guidance on how to flexibly and effectively teach and learn using educational technology (EdTech) during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. In recognition of the increasing use of EdTech applications such as MoECRT’s Rumah Belajar, MoRA’s e-learning madrasah, and other apps that have been introduced by private companies or through collaborations between state and private EdTech companies, this notice highlights an opportunity Using EdTech for flexible and effective teaching and learning in standard and exceptional situations. The note suggests that integrating technology into the education system through online and hybrid learning environments would lead to increased equity and quality, which would particularly benefit students in remote geographic locations.

3: Psychosocial support during and after the Covid-19 pandemic

More than 25,000 Indonesian children have lost one or both parents to COVID-19. Millions more experienced isolation from their peers, under pressure to study from home with limited guidance, and many found it harder to focus. Many reported being easily irritable and having trouble sleeping. These effects have undermined their psychosocial well-being, and this is even more true for children with disabilities and children from marginalized groups. Lack of physical activity and increased screen time are linked to additional health problems such as obesity, malnutrition and myopia. Teachers have experienced similar psychosocial challenges during school closures due to heavier workloads as a result of increased demand for online interaction, and just as many have been forced to adapt to distance learning technology without adequate support. These situations have caused increased anxiety and stress for many Indonesian teachers.

Regulations are now in place to support mental health services for students and teachers, and to ensure they benefit from these services a systemic mental health support framework is needed to promote resilience, including practical mental health support guidelines for school communities.

What’s next?

With schools now open and students back in classrooms, the next important step will be to put learning recovery policies into action. The World Bank will continue efforts to support the Indonesian government to mitigate learning loss through student learning outcomes assessment, support teacher training focused on learning recovery, and ways to improve classroom environments with hybrid learning and of EdTech integration to identify and support the psychosocial well-being of students and teachers.


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