. Scientific Frontline: Children have not recovered learning lost during the COVID-19 pandemic

Monday, January 30, 2023

Children have not recovered learning lost during the COVID-19 pandemic

Learning online: 'We find a substantial overall learning deficit…which arose early in the pandemic and persists over time… The pooled effect…implies that students lost out on about 35% of what they would have learned in a normal school year…This confirms initial concerns the pandemic would cause substantial harm to student learning.'
Photo Credit: Amr

Each year during the pandemic, school children lost one third of what they would have learned – and this has still not been recovered, according to a study published today in Human Nature Behaviour.

According to the paper, A systematic review and meta-analysis of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on learning, ‘We find a substantial overall learning deficit…which arose early in the pandemic and persists over time… The pooled effect…implies that students lost out on about 35% of what they would have learned in a normal school year…This confirms initial concerns the pandemic would cause substantial harm to student learning.’

In particular, the paper finds, Math learning has been affected as well as children from lower income groups, ‘The pandemic has exacerbated educational inequalities between children from different socio-economic backgrounds, which were already large before the pandemic.’

"Many people hoped that, after children, teachers, and parents had time to adjust to the restrictions imposed during the pandemic, children would be able to recover the learning lost...Worryingly, the evidence suggests, large learning deficits remain"
Dr Bastian Betthäuser

Lead study author, Dr Bastian Betthäuser, an associate member of Oxford’s Department of Social Policy and Intervention (DSPI), points out, ‘Many people hoped that, after children, teachers, and parents had time to adjust to the restrictions imposed during the pandemic, children would be able to recover the learning lost...Worryingly, the evidence suggests, large learning deficits remain.’

He adds, ’On the positive side, teachers, children and parents were successful in preventing early learning deficits from growing even larger as the pandemic continued.’

Study co-author Dr Per Engzell,  an associate member of Nuffield College, says, ’The first months of the pandemic were very disruptive for learning progress. Teachers, parents and children were not prepared for the closure of schools. On top of school closures, children’s ability to learn is likely to have been reduced by lockdowns and the associated economic uncertainties of many families.’

"Children in poorer countries lost out on more learning than their peers in richer countries...The pandemic is likely deepening this learning crisis and reversing past progress"
Dr Anders Bach-Mortensen

According to the study, the pandemic also reinforced learning inequality at the global level. Co-author Dr Anders Bach-Mortensen, the Carlsberg Foundation visiting fellow at DSPI, notes, ’Children in poorer countries lost out on more learning than their peers in richer countries. Low-income countries were already struggling with a learning crisis before the pandemic. The pandemic is likely deepening this learning crisis and reversing past progress.’

The study urges policy action to address setbacks in children’s learning. Dr Betthäuser says, ‘Some countries have already invested substantial resources into such policies, but we need more evidence to understand their effectiveness. If these policies prove effective, and if countries continue to invest in them, the pandemic could be a window of opportunity to improve the education that we provide for our children and to reduce educational inequality.’

Published in journalHuman Nature Behaviour

Source/CreditUniversity of Oxford

Reference Number: ss013023_01

Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Contact Us

Featured Article

Heat extremes in the soil are underestimated

Climate change intensifies extreme heat in the soil. Photo Credit: André Künzelmann (UFZ) For a long time, little attention was paid to soil...

Top Viewed Articles