Impact on Formal Education during COVID

Formal education -- as opposed to informal education or non-formal education -- tends to refer to schools, colleges, universities and training institutions. A 1974 report by the World Bank defined formal education as the following:

Formal education: the hierarchically structured, chronologically graded "education system", running from primary school through the university and including, in addition to general academic studies, a variety of specialised programmes and institutions for full-time technical and professional training.

The majority of data collected on the number of students and learners impacted by COVID-19 has been calculated based on the closure of formal education systems. The UNESCO Institute for Statistics provides figures on students impacted by COVID-19 corresponding to the number of learners enrolled at pre-primary, primary, lower-secondary, and upper-secondary levels of education (ISCED levels 0 to 3), as well as at tertiary education levels (ISCED levels 5 to 8).On average, teachers in K-primary schools were coping worse with the transition than high school educators and university instructors.

Early childhood education
Early childhood educational programmes are usually designed for children below the age of 3 and may refer to preschools, nursery schools, kindergartens, and some day care programmes. While many primary and secondary schools have closed around the world due to COVID-19, measures impacting early childhood educational programmes have varied. In some countries and territories for instance in Australia preschools and day cares are considered necessary services and have not closed in tandem with broader school closure measures.

In the United States, the Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families encouraged child care and early learning centres to stay open. Some school districts may offer alternative child care options, prioritising the children of first responders and healthcare workers. The governor of Maryland mandated that specific child care services remain open for the children of emergency personnel while Washington State and California have left it to the discretion of care providers. California Governor Gavin Newsom explained his state's position, saying "We need our child care facilities, our daycare centers, to operate to absorb the impact of these school closures." Colorado has encouraged the development of "tool kits" for parents to use at home to emulate the lessons children would have received in their early learning programmes.

In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe closed all schools throughout the country until 8 April, however, children's daycare facilities were excluded. In early March, five adults associated with a nursing facility for preschool children in Kobe tested positive for coronavirus. After testing over one hundred children at the facility, a preschool student was found to be carrying the virus.

Primary Education
Primary or elementary education typically consists of the first four to seven years of formal education. Kindergarten is the first time children participate in formal education. Based on a comparison of longitudinal literacy data in kindergarten-aged students during a spring semester of schooling versus during summer vacation, one study predicted that COVID-19 school closures would slow the rate of literacy ability gain by 66% in kindergarten children in the absence of mitigating alternative educational strategies.The study estimates that over an 8-month period from 1 January to 1 September 2020, assuming school closures from 16 March to 1 September 2020 (and taking into account the summer vacation that would have still normally taken place during that time), that these kindergarten children would have gained 31% less literacy ability on average than if school closures had not occurred.

Secondary Education
Secondary education is in most countries the phase in the education continuum responsible for the development of the young during their adolescence, the most rapid phase of their physical, mental and emotional growth. However, according to many researchers, secondary education students have lost the structure they need in order to thrive in the secondary environment. Instead, students struggle with self-sufficiency and are at risk of falling behind due to distractors in their home and online. The social-emotional wellbeing of secondary students is also of concern with a recent survey citing that 80% of students have experienced some negative impact to their mental health due to the pandemic. 20% say their mental health has significantly worsened. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) suggests that students should get plenty of rest, exercise regularly, and eat well-balanced meals in order to assist in coping with the mental stressors of the pandemic.

In the United States, standardized tests for college admissions that are taken near the end of secondary education, such as the SAT and ACT, have adapted to administer in person exams at lower capacity and obeying precautionary measures. Online proctoring has also been explored as a method of making the test more accessible. An online edition of the TOEFL exam is now available for students to take at home. Additionally, many colleges and universities have moved away from requiring standardized tests for admissions, or making the requirement optional.

The International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) cancelled the examinations for its Diploma Programme and Career-related Programme candidates scheduled between 30 April and 22 May 2020, reportedly affecting more than 200,000 students worldwide. The IBO stated that it would award candidates their diplomas or certificates based on "their coursework" and "the established assessment expertise, rigor, and quality control already built into the programme." College Board has begun offering both in person and online testing for Advanced Placement exams in the 2020-2021 school year.

Private schools in the United States
One effect of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States has come in the form of increases in private school enrollment. Many parents seeking out private school instruction need a place to send their child due to the parents need to work outside of the home. Despite the high cost of private schools, parents find that the tuition cost to be worth it.

An unintended consequence of this migration to private schooling is the widening inequality gap between families that can afford private school tuition and those who cannot. These families often have their children at home in virtual learning environments. Issues like poor broadband connection and the inability for parents to properly support their children's learning due to lack of English language skills or work conflicts will see certain students fall behind academically.

Primary and Secondary Schools in Kenya
A study on "teachers' and parents' preparedness to support virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic in Kenya" shows that most parents and teachers were not prepared to support virtual learning. This issue affected all schools: public 8-4-4 schools, private 8-4-4 schools, international schools, and private schools in the country. This points to a weak support system for virtual education in Kenyan schools during COVID-19 outbreak affecting virtual learning delivery.

Grade Deflation
However, the IBO came under heavy criticism worldwide for their methods in calculating the students' final grades and their "Enquiry upon results" (EUR) strategy after results were released on 6 July 2020. Consequently, many students not only received much lower grades than what they were predicted to by their teachers but also missed the entrance requirements to every university they applied to, affecting approximately 170,000 students in 153 countries. As a result, petitions that garnered dozens of thousands of signatures were created online with the hashtag "IBSCANDAL" becoming viral, schools and people have lost confidence with the education company and are considering other alternatives for secondary education, and educational reforms are being suggested where students will deviate away from taking significant examinations in the future.

Higher Education
Undergraduate education

Undergraduate education is education conducted after secondary education and prior to post-graduate education, for which the learner is typically awarded a bachelor's degree.

The closure of colleges and universities has widespread individual, organizational, and learning and teaching implications for students, faculty, administrators, and the institutions themselves. The initial period of rapid adaption during 2020 contained three primary responses to COVID-19: minimal legal response, delayed commencement of study periods, and rapid digitalization of curriculum. Thoughts about what to make of this situation resulted in optional learning online or in person depending on what the university declared as being mandatory.

Millions of students are expected to defer the start of their studies for their undergraduate degree to a later year due to the pandemic. This not only will negatively affect the future university intake process due to shortages in places available but universities worldwide are expected to lose billions of USD in equivalent due to the number of students expected to study at university in the 2020/2021 academic year.

Colleges and universities across the United States have been called upon to issue refunds to students for the cost of tuition and room and board.

While $6 billion in emergency relief is to be made available to students during the pandemic, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos decided on 21 April 2020 that it will only be made available to those students who are also already eligible for federal financial aid. This rule will exclude tens of thousands of undocumented students who participate in the government's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA, or "Dreamers") program from being able to receive emergency relief funds.

Apart from colleges losing vast amounts of income undergraduate students themselves have lost vast amounts of imperative education due to COVID-19. With the lack of regular education amongst all students, learning seems harder to manage. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, college students would have in-person classes, in-person office hours, and in-person extracurricular activities. However, the pandemic has created an atmosphere where students who have an idea about their future occupation, are learning essential information behind a screen. These changes have made focusing on classes built around a students selected major very difficult, as they are not experiencing what they are passionate about to the fullest extent. The result of this is lost passion for specific subjects, the inability to focus on crucial information, and tainted academic integrity all over.

Impact on Local Economies
In the United States of America, colleges and universities operate as "mini-cities" which generate significant revenue for cities, states, and regions. For example, Princeton University estimated in 2017 that it contributed $1.58 billion USD per year to the New Jersey economy, and that students spent about $60 million in off-campus spending. College and university closures have a domino effect on economies with far-reaching implications.

In March, Linda Bilmes of the Harvard Kennedy School noted that "local hotels, restaurants, cafes, shops, car rental agencies and other local businesses obtain a significant share of annual revenue from graduation week and college reunions... these communities will suffer a lot of economic damage if the colleges remain closed at that time."

Small towns which rely on college students to support the local economy and provide labour to local businesses are especially impacted by school closures and the exodus of students from campus. In Ithaca, New York, Cornell University students spent at least $4 million a week in Tompkins County. In the wake of Cornell's decision to keep students home following spring break and transition to virtual instruction, the Mayor of Ithaca called for "immediate and forceful federal action -- we will see a horrific economic impact as a result of Cornell University closing."