Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa., emphasized the significant national and international generational learning loss from academic disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the role of the government in combatting this issue during a July 15 webinar hosted by Axios.
The pandemic upended the lives of many students, shifting them from an in-person learning environment to a completely remote environment. The role of technology in the education system was not much more prevalent. Under-resourced students didn’t have proper, consistent access to the internet or computers—the inequity of technology accessibility for students posed a problem, widening the learning gap.
American students in general, from kindergarten to fifth grade, missed out on 20 percent of the reading and 33 percent of the math skills they would have received in a classroom setting. For under-resourced students, those numbers increased to 23 percent in reading and 41 percent in math.
“Pre-pandemic, we were dealing with issues of inequity when teaching our children the skills needed to be a functioning member of our society. Then you add this pandemic; it brought us and the world to its knees in terms of how to educate,” said Houlahan.
And while Houlahan does not see remote learning as the classroom of the future, she does agree that technology’s role in the school has shifted, and the lack of equitable distribution and internet access remains an issue.
“I do think that we need to see a world where all children have access to technology equitably. And this means broadband access for everyone. Here in Pennsylvania, we see broadband and technology inequities not just in urban areas but in rural areas as well. And this is something that we hope to fix with the new infrastructure bill we are pushing forward,” said Houlahan.
Aside from addressing issues of inequity, Houlahan also emphasized the need to address the generational learning loss impact that inequity caused throughout the nation and the world. The learning loss around the world brought on by the pandemic, according to Houlahan, is of national importance.
Therefore, she passed the Global Learning Loss Assessment Act through the U.S. House of Representatives alongside her co-leads, Reps. Mike Quigley, D-Ill. and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., passed the House with overwhelming support, 366 to 46.
“This education gap has the potential to hinder global efforts on economic justice, lasting peace, poverty eradication, ending world hunger, gender equity, and more,” Houlahan said.
The bill would help identify the scope of the learning loss around the world. And it would require the U.S. Agency for International Development to submit a report within 180 days to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the impact of COVID-19 on global learning and basic education programs, which would be made publicly available.