Covid: Swiss pupils two months behind in studies

A pupil in Zurich in January 2021 © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly slowed the learning progress of school children, according to a large-scale international study. Overall, pupils missed more than a third of the learning material of a normal school year. In Switzerland, however, only about one sixth was missed.

This content was published on January 30, 2023

The pandemic “has led to one of the largest disruptions to learning in history”, the authors from France, Sweden and the UK wrote in the studyExternal link, published on Monday in the journal Nature Human Behaviour. “To a large extent, this is due to school closures, which are estimated to have affected 95% of the world’s student population.”

The learning deficit was much more pronounced in mathematics than in reading, they noted. This was because parents and children tended to read together at home rather than solve maths problems together.

Mental and physical health problems may have exacerbated the deficits, they added.

“Children’s wellbeing and family relationships have also suffered due to economic uncertainties and conflicting demands of work, care and learning. These negative consequences can be expected to be most pronounced for children from low socio-economic family backgrounds, exacerbating pre-existing educational inequalities,” they wrote.

Little change over time

The authors also found that although learning deficits appeared early in the pandemic, they did not significantly decrease or increase over time.

The study is based on a meta-analysis of 42 studies from 15 high- and middle-income countries published between March 2020 and August 2022. Most of the studies analysed were in the UK and the US, and two studies were in Switzerland.

In middle-income countries such as Brazil and Mexico, the learning deficit was greater than in high-income countries such as Switzerland, the US and the UK. The extent to which children from low-income countries are affected by learning deficits is unclear, the authors said. There are no corresponding studies from these countries.

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