COVID-19 in Sub-Saharan Africa: Monitoring Impacts on Learning Outcomes: Main Report

Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)


The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted education in many ways. Across the world, schools have been partially or wholly closed, teachers and students have been forced to quarantine at home for short or extended periods of time, social learning opportunities have been cancelled and community interactions curtailed. This has added a further obstacle to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to education. The COVID-19 MILO (Monitoring Impacts on Learning Outcomes) study was designed to provide information on the impact of the pandemic on learning outcomes in six countries in Africa – Burkina Faso, Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Senegal and Zambia. As these countries work towards the goal of meeting Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4.1.1b, it is essential that progress towards this goal continues to be monitored. The MILO project was implemented to provide a way for countries to measure learning progress against SDG 4.1.1b prior to, during and after the pandemic. The four overarching goals of the project were to:

• evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on reading and mathematics learning outcomes by reporting against SDG indicator 4.1.1b.

• identify the impact of different distance learning mechanisms put in place to remediate the learning disruption generated by COVID-19

• expand the UIS bank of items for primary education

• generate a toolkit to scale assessment results to international benchmarks, reporting against SDG 4.1.1b.

This report focuses on the first two goals. The report addresses the first goal by evaluating the degree to which learning outcomes for students at the end of primary schooling change between two time points: one pre-pandemic and the other in mid-2021 after the pandemic had inflicted substantial disruption upon education contexts. The report addresses the second goal by examining contextual factors at the student, family, school and system levels for their response to the pandemic disruption. How these contextual factors relate to any change in outcomes over time is also explored. Discussion on the variety of educational responses to COVID-19 and recommendations for building more resilient education systems are included in this report.