At a time when much of the world is returning to school, we continue to gather credible evidence about the link between children’s learning and vision. The findings reach beyond anecdotal, as recent research proves that there is a negative impact on educational outcomes in children because of poor eyesight. Additionally, new research reveals the link between good vision and a child reaching his or her development potential.
More than 2,000 years ago, the Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote, “We prefer seeing to everything else.” Still today, research suggests that sight is the most valued human sense. Equally important, sight is likely the sense enabling us to reach our full potential from childhood, as experts agree that up to 80% of learning is visual.
RESEARCH CALLS FOR EARLY INTERVENTION FOR CHILDREN’S VISION
Healthy vision is essential for school-aged children and must be a priority from early childhood. The recent UN Resolution on Vision (2021) recognizes that vision is an important contributor to child development, and it underscores the need for appropriate legal, social, and physical infrastructures to ensure eye health care is provided to every child.
Children with uncorrected poor vision are at a major disadvantage at school. Good vision is essential for a child’s educational attainment, learning, socio-emotional development, wellbeing, future success, and long-term health.
However, good vision is not granted to every child: barriers and stigmas still exist, creating long-term implications for individuals and societies. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, studies showed that lockdowns and virtual classrooms increased the use of screens (2020), affecting children's eyes and exacerbating visual risks such as myopia progression (2021) and a potential increase in myopia incidence (2021).
From a broader perspective, good vision contributes to unlocking a child’s full potential and achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Improved education (SDG4) helps reduce poverty (SDG 1), inequalities (SDG10) and hunger (SDG2), and it enables decent work and economic growth (SDG8).
RESEARCH SUGGESTS POOR VISION HINDERS SCHOOL SUCCESS AND CAN LEAD TO EXCLUSION
The WHO’s World Report on Vision (2019) suggested that school-aged children with vision impairment can experience lower levels of educational achievement and self-esteem than their peers with good vision.
The most recent report from The Lancet Global Health Commission (2021) stated that children with vision impairment have poorer educational outcomes and are more likely to be excluded from schools or less likely to attend than children with good vision.
In “The Price of Exclusion” (2019), the World Bank Group published findings from research conducted in 21 African countries, showing that children with visual impairment were on average five to seven percentage points less likely to ever enroll in school, complete their primary education, and be literate than children without disabilities.