Learning Loss due to COVID-19: it’s real! (News and Research 268)

Learning loss during COVID-19: An early systematic review | With Covid-19 having caused significant disruption to the global education system, researchers are beginning to become concerned with the impact that this has had on student learning progress and, in particular, whether learning loss has been experienced. To evaluate this, the authors conducted a thorough analysis of recorded learning loss evidence documented between March 2020 and March 2021. This systematic review aims to consolidate available data and to document what has been reported in the literature. Given the novelty of the subject, eight studies were identified; seven of these found evidence of student learning loss among at least some of the participants while one of the seven also found instances of learning gains in a particular subgroup. The remaining study found increased learning gains in their participants. Additionally, four of the studies observed increases in inequality where certain demographics of students experienced learning losses more significant than others. It is determined that further research is needed to increase the quantity of studies produced, their geographical focus, and the numbers of students they observe.

Since the systematic review was written, several new studies have been undertaken, documenting losses in learning between 0.08 and 0.32 standard deviations. Theses include: Brazil, China, the Czech Republic, England, Germany, Ghana, Italy (and for higher education), Norway, and Russia, among others. Little to no learning losses have been detected in Denmark, France and Japan.

Education: Development news, research, data | World Bank

From Indonesia, Literacy in the Midst of the Pandemic: How Are Students’ Literacy Skills?, we learn that in one public primary school most students are not fluent in reading and could not understand the content. These data indicated a decline in students’ basic literacy skills during the pandemic.

In, The Resiliency of School Outcomes after the COVID-19 Pandemic: Standardised Test Scores and Inequality One Year after Long Term School Closures, Letizia Gambi and Kristof De Witte show that almost two years after the largest disruption of education in history, the question remains as to whether, and to what extent, school outcomes are resilient and inequality persists. As a follow up to their first study of learning loss during the first phase of school closures (in a paper that has since been published), they analyze test scores and administrative data pertaining to the last year of primary education in the Flemish region of Belgium. For math, the impact of the COVID-19 school closures is halted, but not reversed yet. For science, students in the 2021 cohort have started catching up (though insignificantly) with previous cohorts, while the 2021 test scores improved significantly for social sciences. Notwithstanding the halted attainment deficits in math in 2021, a quantile analysis suggests that the math test scores of the best-performing students in a school (i.e., quantile 70 to 95) have significantly declined, while those of low performing students seem to have slightly improved (though insignificantly). One year after the COVID-19 school closures, the inequality within schools seems to have increased in the Dutch language and decreased in mathematics. Further, the findings suggest that targeted remedial actions (in particular summer schools), which were mainly focusing on the most vulnerable students, were successful in halting attainment deficits. However, further policy attention should also be given to the best-performing students, who seem to fall behind one year after the pandemic.

Building Back Better to Avert a Learning Catastrophe: Estimating Learning Loss from COVID-19 School Shutdowns in Africa and Facilitating Short-Term and Long-Term Learning Recovery: Noam Angrist and colleagues, using EGRA data from Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Tanzania and Uganda, show that short-term COVID-related learning losses in sub-Saharan Africa are up to one year. They argue that the learning loss could accumulate to 2.8 years of long-term lost learning.

Other: Direct vs Indirect Management Training in Schools: Experimental Evidence from Mexico: Rafa de Hoyos and colleagues report on an experimental study across public schools in Mexico. Some schools receive direct high-quality managerial training by professional trainers. The comparison group is trained through the cascade-style train the trainer model. Direct training improved managerial capacity significantly, by 0.13 standards. Yet, it had no impact on student test scores.