Although they have often been the forgotten of the pandemic, children may end up bearing the brunt of the virus that brought the world to a standstill: many have lost family members, been confined at a crucial period of their lives and are growing up in a society still knocked out by the direct and indirect effects of Covid.

Now a comprehensive new study has calculated that, on average, students have missed the equivalent of more than a third of a course during the pandemic.

Most of this "

learning deficit,

" as experts call it, occurred at the start of the health crisis, and

has yet to recover


If it is not remedied, it is likely that those most affected will continue to carry this deficiency into their adult life.

The study on the learning deficit, published today in the journal 'Nature Human Behaviour', has analyzed all the available scientific literature on this subject.

In total,

42 investigations carried out in 15 countries

have been considered , including one in Spain.

His estimate is that school-age children have lost knowledge and skills equivalent to 35% of a school year.

Around 95% of the students on the planet have been affected by

closures, confinements, quarantines or improvised

hybrid or blended training programs.

The damage is even greater among disadvantaged families and the poorest countries, although almost no one has been spared from suffering a major impact, according to the analysis of studies published between March 2020 and August 2022. In other words, the time in the one in which Spain suffered seven waves of Covid.

"On average, children have lost around a third of what they would have learned in a normal school year, and this learning deficit

came quite early in the pandemic

," explained

Bastian Betthäuser

, a researcher at the University of of Oxford and Sciences Po in Paris, in addition to being the first author of the study.

"Children have not yet regained the learning they lost at the start of the pandemic, which means that government programs were successful in preventing further deficits when the pandemic continued, but

were not successful in addressing learning deficits that had occurred before.

"adds Betthäuser.

The learning deficit has also deepened the economic gap both between families and between countries: "

Children from disadvantaged backgrounds have been disproportionately affected by the closures

", laments the researcher, adding: "It has also reinforced educational inequality globally".

In short, it is now more difficult for people who were already affected by learning deficits before the pandemic to get back on their feet, and it will be more difficult for aid programs in developing countries to succeed.


There is a strong need for policies that help children recover the learning they lost

at the start of the pandemic. Especially children from disadvantaged backgrounds," warns Betthäuser.

"For middle-income countries, the learning deficit is even higher, much higher, than in high-income countries. And, unfortunately, we don't have evidence from low-income countries [because no studies have been done], but

it seems very It is possible that in these low-income countries the learning deficits are even greater

," he clarifies.

"It is too soon to assess the long-term effects, it is something that should be evaluated in the coming years," admits the author of the new study, although he stresses that the outlook is not good: "I think that, potentially, it will be a real problem for this generation that has suffered from the pandemic at school. We must prepare, governments must prepare, for possible long-term effects. We don't know yet how serious it will be, but

I think it is very likely that we will see negative effects when people enter the labor market,

" he ponders.

"The relevance of the learning deficit found is immense because it has a direct impact on teaching. The lower the learning performance, the more difficult it is for students to reach the levels required by the study plans. As a result,

it can be expected that a 'Covid generation' is formed

, which has particularly suffered the consequences of the pandemic," agrees Klaus Zierer, Professor of Education at the University of Augsburg (Germany), who was not part of the study.

"Everything must be done to compensate for learning deficits. Unfortunately,

many countries missed the first opportunities

or put them into practice in an absolutely thoughtless way. As a result, even more time has been lost," criticizes Zierer, in statements to 'Science Media Center' (SMC Spain).

The study has also confirmed that subjects such as mathematics, in which face-to-face training has more weight,

the delay caused by the pandemic is greater

than, for example, in the reading level, than many children -but not all- they were able to continue at home.

"The results could not be more interesting: that our students have a delay in the level of achievement that is maintained over time, that this delay

has affected mathematics more than reading

and that those who have suffered the most are the students with lower income," says Cynthia Martínez Garrido, professor of Research Methods in Education at the Autonomous University of Madrid.

"According to the UN,

more than 1,600 million students in 190 countries

remained locked in their homes without being able to go to school. Far from being the ideal situation, the differences between those who have more and less have worsened," Martínez Garrido describes to SMC Spain.

"The tables in the kitchens and living rooms have become improvised libraries, but without the silence and work environment that we know is so necessary to learn."

And, of course, those who had a single computer for several siblings or did not have an internet connection were the most affected.

According to the criteria of The Trust Project

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