(Bloomberg) -- Children’s learning progress slowed during the pandemic even after strict curbs were lifted, with deficits persisting into the middle of last year, according to a study that raises questions about Covid’s lasting impact on an entire generation.
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Kids lost out on about a third of a normal school year’s worth of learning since the onset of Covid-19, scientists said in a broad international analysis published Monday in the scientific journal Nature Human Behaviour. The deficit was greater in math, and hurt youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds the most.
The pandemic triggered one of the biggest learning disruptions in history, said the scientists, who cited the impact of World War II as well as more recent turmoil to conclude that learning deficits tend to endure.
School closures were the main culprit but not the only one, they said, pointing to the effect of pandemic curbs on children’s ability to play, meet others and engage in extra-curricular activities. Students continued to show a delay in expected learning progress well into last year, along with a loss of skills and knowledge that cast a pall over their future.
“Education is one of the — if not the — key predictor for children’s school to work transition, their success in the labor market, their success in building up their own livelihood,” Bastian Betthäuser, an assistant professor of sociology at Sciences Po in France and one of the study’s authors, said at a briefing. “This is potentially going be a real problem for this generation.”
The research was a meta-analysis, meaning the scientists reviewed more than 40 studies across 15 high-income and middle-income countries, including Australia, Brazil, Germany, South Africa, the UK and the US. They couldn’t assess the impact on lower-income countries because of a lack of data.
The analysis showed no evidence of variation in learning deficits across grade levels, and it’s unclear whether there were differences between primary and secondary school students, according to the scientists.
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