Students Lost One-Third of a School Year to Pandemic, Study Finds – The New York Times
Children experienced learning deficits during the Covid pandemic that amounted to about one-third of a school year’s worth of knowledge and skills, according to a new global analysis, and had not recovered from those losses more than two years later.
Learning delays and regressions were most severe in developing countries and among students from low-income backgrounds, researchers said, worsening existing disparities and threatening to follow children into higher education and the work force.
The analysis, published Monday in the journal Nature Human Behavior and drawing on data from 15 countries, provided the most comprehensive account to date of the academic hardships wrought by the pandemic. The findings suggest that the challenges of remote learning — coupled with other stressors that plagued children and families throughout the pandemic — were not rectified when school doors reopened.
“In order to recover what was lost, we have to be doing more than just getting back to normal,” said Bastian Betthäuser, a researcher at the Center for Research on Social Inequalities at Sciences Po in Paris, who was a co-author on the review. He urged officials worldwide to provide intensive summer programs and tutoring initiatives that target poorer students who fell furthest behind.
Thomas Kane, the faculty director of the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard, who has studied school interruptions in the United States, reviewed the global analysis. Without immediate and aggressive intervention, he said, “learning loss will be the longest-lasting and most inequitable legacy of the pandemic.”
Before Covid, crises such as the 2005 earthquake in Kashmir, the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa and enduring teacher strikes in Argentina showed that long-term school absenteeism could have lasting effects. But none had compared to Covid’s scope: About 1.6 billion children worldwide missed a significant amount of classroom time during the pandemic’s peak, according to Unicef.
To quantify the impact, investigators combined findings from 42 different studies published between March 2020 and August 2022, spanning middle- and high-income countries in the Americas, Europe and southern Africa. Global education deficits were equivalent to about 35 percent of a school year and remained “incredibly stable” in the years that followed, Mr. Betthäuser said, as students stopped losing additional ground but also failed to rebound.
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Delays were worse in mathematics than in reading, Mr. Betthäuser said, possibly because math requires more formal instruction and because reading comprehension generally improves with brain development as children grow. Data shows that students of lower socioeconomic status shouldered much of the burden, likely because they faced noisy study spaces, spotty internet connections and economic turbulence.
Dr. Damon Korb, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician who founded the Center for Developing Minds, was unsurprised to discover that learning deficits …….