The current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is having a profound impact, not only on people’s health, but also on how they learn, work and live. Among the most important challenges created by COVID-19 is how to adapt a system of education built around physical schools. At its peak, more than 188 countries, encompassing around 91% of enrolled learners worldwide, closed their schools to try to contain the spread of the virus
.1 School closures have a very real impact on all students, but especially on the most vulnerable ones who are more likely to face additional barriers
.2 Children and youth from low-income and single-parent families; immigrant, refugee
,3 ethnic minority
4 and Indigenous
5 backgrounds; with diverse gender
6 identities and sexual orientations;
7 and those with special education needs
8 suffer by being deprived of physical learning opportunities, social and emotional support available in schools and extra services such as school meals
.9 They risk falling further behind and becoming isolated with school doors closed. These students are likely to lose the most in terms of educational outcomes
10 and the support provided by schools if countries take insufficient measures to promote educational equity and inclusion.
The following sections describe OECD Member Countries’ initiatives to address the different needs of vulnerable students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Beyond school closures, this Policy Brief also examines the issue of school re-openings by presenting countries’ current measures and providing policy pointers aimed to ensure that the pandemic does not further hinder the inclusion of vulnerable students in education systems.