Early childhood, Primary and Secondary Education

Education systems around the world are facing a uniquely difficult moment, facing the twin challenges of ensuring student and staff health amid a pandemic, while also ensuring continuity of learning. Education gains made over the past decades are increasingly at risk, with school shutdowns widening opportunity gaps.

In the near term, the imperative is to find ways of operating through the pandemic: improving remote and hybrid learning, meeting the needs of vulnerable students, and reopening where health safeguards allow. As school systems prepare for the future, they can draw on existing evidence-based interventions regarding curriculum, teaching, and assessments—all tailored to context. And they can learn from cases of successful education reform around the world. But they can also consider new ideas to reimagine education for a post-pandemic world, integrating new technologies, harnessing increased levels of parent engagement, providing holistic student support, teaching skills for a new future of work, improving teacher development, and allocating resources equitably to finally close long-standing opportunity gaps. In early childhood, success will require an integrated, comprehensive approach; linking healthcare, social services, and education programs from birth through age five to support children across their physical health, cognitive development, and socio-emotional health.

Our insights provide data and research to support early childhood and school systems navigate all of these challenges and changes, and support every child to thrive and be prepared for the future.

Featured Insight


Reimagining a more equitable and resilient K–12 education system

– Responding to the changes that the COVID-19 crisis has wrought on education systems around the world requires building on what we know works, as well as looking ahead to what we know students will need.

School system response to COVID-19


Educating K–12 students amid COVID-19: The parental perspective

American parents paint a wide-ranging picture of how the pandemic has impacted their school-aged children, and offer clues on how to reset and recover.

COVID-19 and education: The lingering effects of unfinished learning

– US states and districts have the opportunity to not only help students catch up on unfinished learning from the pandemic but also tackle long-standing historical inequities in education.

Teacher survey: Learning loss is global—and significant

– While the education response to the COVID-19 pandemic has varied widely, teachers agree on the high cost of remote learning, especially for vulnerable students.

COVID-19 and learning loss—disparities grow and students need help

– The pandemic has set back learning for all students, but especially for students of color. Evidence-based acceleration approaches can help.

School-system priorities in the age of coronavirus

– Now that the immediate rush of closing K–12 schools is over, school systems must focus on four major priorities—and put equity front and center.

Safely back to school after coronavirus closures

– As they consider the path to reopening schools, systems can consider three questions: when to reopen, for whom, and with what health and safety precautions in place.

COVID-19 and student learning in the United States: The hurt could last a lifetime

– New evidence shows that the shutdowns caused by COVID-19 could exacerbate existing achievement gaps.

Back to school: A framework for remote and hybrid learning amid COVID-19

– As school systems prepare to reopen, here’s how to create a safe and effective learning environment for everyone.

Education technology in school systems


New global data reveal education technology’s impact on learning

– The use of technology in education has become a lifeline during the COVID-19 pandemic. As students return to the classroom, school systems must carefully consider the longer-term role of technology.

How artificial intelligence will impact K-12 teachers

– Existing and emerging technologies can help save teacher time—time that could be redirected toward student learning. But to capture the potential, stakeholders need to address four imperatives.

Protecting student data in a digital world

– Proponents of data-enabled education can learn from other industries that have faced concerns about the risks of using personal information.

Early childhood education


How states can improve well-being for all children, from birth to age five

– State governments have a unique opportunity to improve children’s developmental trajectories. An integrated approach can help.

Visualizing early childhood development

– See how states are making progress to support early childhood development.

School system reform series


An interview with former Peruvian Minister of Education Jaime Saavedra

– Jaime Saavedra came from the World Bank to lead the Education Ministry in his native country of Peru with a commitment to improve quality across the public education system.

Bringing major improvements to education in Colombia

– Over the course of her eight-year tenure as Colombia’s minister of education, Cecilia María Vélez White oversaw a massive overhaul of the country’s approach to student enrollment and achievement.

Education reform in Norway: Looking beyond politics to bring sustained change

– Education policy in Norway has been shaped by data more than by doctrine. As a result, education reforms in the country have been supported by various governments across a broad political spectrum for more than a decade.

A case study in social change through education: Fogarty EDvance

– One nonprofit is improving education in socially disadvantaged communities in Western Australia. The lessons it has learned may help other schools succeed on the path to educational equality.

Drivers of student performance series


How to improve student educational outcomes: New insights from data analytics

– By applying advanced analytics and machine learning, we have identified factors that play a critical role in student achievement.

Drivers of student performance: Asia insights

– An analysis of OECD PISA results from Asia highlights four findings on mindsets, teaching styles, technology, and early childhood education.

Drivers of student performance: Insights from Europe

– We analyzed OECD PISA results from Europe. What did we learn about student mindsets, teaching practices, and technology?

What drives student performance in Latin America?

– Our analysis of OECD PISA results from the region offers five findings on student mindsets, teaching practices, technology, instructional hours, and early childhood education.

Drivers of student performance: Insights from North America

– Our analysis of OECD PISA results from North America highlights four insights on student mindsets, teaching practices, instructional time, and early childhood education.

Drivers of student performance: Insights from the Middle East and North Africa

– Five findings emerged from our analysis of OECD PISA results from the Middle East and North Africa.

Historical education reports


How the world’s most improved school systems keep getting better

– How does a school system with poor performance become good? And how does one with good performance become excellent? Our education report explains.

The economic cost of the US education gap

– Gaps in academic achievement cost the US economy trillions of dollars a year. Yet there is reason to think they could be closed.

How the world’s best-performing school systems come out on top

– Why is it that some school systems consistently perform well and improve faster than others? McKinsey studied 25 across the globe to find out.

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