April 1, 2023

Students worldwide lost out on 35% of school year due to pandemic, new study finds

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Students across the world lost out on about 35% of a school year’s worth of learning due to the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, according to a new study.

The study, “A systematic review and meta-analysis of the evidence on learning during the COVID-19 pandemic,” sought to find to what extent the learning progress of school-aged children slowed down during the coronavirus pandemic. The work was an extensive systematic review, analyzing 42 studies across 15 countries to assess the magnitude of learning deficits during the pandemic.

According to the study, the pandemic led to one of the largest disruptions to learning in recent history, and a large extent of that is due to school closures — estimated to have affected 95% of the world’s student population. And when face-to-face instruction resumed, there were hybrid classes and disruptions with isolation and quarantine requirements that led students to miss school and stay home.

Lockdowns restricted children’s movement and ability to play, meet other kids and engage in extracurricular activities. Their well-being and family relationships also suffered due to economic uncertainties, the study noted.

The overall effect, according to the study, suggests that students lost out on about 35% of a school year’s worth of learning. On average, the learning progress of school-aged children slowed substantially during the pandemic.

Those negative consequences were most pronounced for children from low socio-economic family backgrounds, which exacerbated pre-existing educational inequalities. This was due to a lack of access and ability to use technology, the quality of the home learning environment and the support they received from teachers and parents, and ability to study autonomously, the authors found.

Deficits are also larger in math than in reading, which authors stated could be due to the fact that parents and children were able to compensate school-based learning by reading at home.

The study stated that the persistence of learning deficits more than two years into the pandemic highlights a need for “well-designed, well-resourced and decisive policy initiatives to recover learning deficits.” It suggested that policymakers, schools and families work to identify and realize opportunities to expand on regular school-based learning.


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