School closures and restrictions in school learning caused by the pandemic have set back schoolchildren considerably in their social development and in their learning success.

Your performance in German and mathematics has deteriorated significantly in the years 2016 to 2021.

This is the result of the Germany-wide pre-evaluation of the 2021 education trend by the Institute for Quality in Education (IQB), which was published this Friday.

The country evaluations will follow in October.

Heike Schmoll

Political correspondent in Berlin, responsible for “Bildungswelten”.

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Reading skills have declined by a third of a school year, listening by half a school year and spelling by a quarter of a school year.

In the areas of reading and listening, which could also be examined for long-term changes, this development has been indicated since 2011.

However, it increased significantly during the period under investigation, said the director of the IQB, the Berlin educational researcher Petra Stanat.

She pointed out that the proportion of the decline in performance caused by the pandemic cannot be precisely determined.

However, "the education system needs to take care of these children more systematically," Stanat said.

The President of the Conference of Ministers of Education, Schleswig-Holstein's Minister of Education Karin Prien (CDU), said that the school closures caused by the pandemic primarily affected children who could receive less support at home.

The students “need face-to-face teaching at school and long-term measures to catch up on the learning deficits caused by the pandemic,” said Prien.

In order to provide them with more targeted support, the federal states had asked the federal government to extend the federal program "Catching up after Corona for children and young people" with a further 500 million euros until the end of the 2023/24 school year.

It is now about strengthening the basic skills “reading, writing and arithmetic”.

In mathematics, too, the competence values ​​are significantly lower than in 2016. The drop in performance corresponds to about a quarter of a school year.

Unlike in German, the unfavorable development in math since 2016 is only slightly more pronounced than the negative trend between 2011 and 2016. However, the spread of the competence values ​​between the lowest and highest value is significantly larger than in the years 2016 and 2011.

In 2021, 58 and 59 percent of fourth graders will reach or exceed the standard in German in the areas of reading and listening.

Almost a fifth of students (19 and 18 percent, respectively) fail to meet the minimum standard.

In orthography, less than half of the students meet the rule standard and almost a third fall short of the minimum standard.

This means that only a small minority are able to write compliantly in secondary school.

More fourth-graders with migration backgrounds

It is alarming that significantly more students are failing the minimum standards in reading, listening and spelling than was the case in 2016.

In all competence areas tested, the greatest negative development can be seen between 2016 and 2021, even if negative trends were already indicated beforehand.

Because elementary school students in particular were dependent on their parents being able to support them with home learning during the school closures and digital offers for children who were not yet literate were not available, the connection between the socio-economic educational level of the family and educational success has also become significantly closer.

This is especially true when it comes to reading and listening.

In mathematics, the differences in 2021 are similar to those in 2011 and 2016. Due to the wave of refugees in 2015, the proportion of fourth graders with a migration background has also increased significantly.

Overall, 38 percent of fourth graders in Germany have an immigrant background.

In 2021 it was 13.6 percentage points higher than in 2011.

The declines in performance are most pronounced among first-generation immigrant students.

This is especially true when it comes to listening.

In the second generation, the level of attainment in reading, listening and mathematics was stable in 2011 and 2016 and has only decreased significantly in the last five years.

But the decline in performance cannot be explained solely by a higher proportion of students with a migration background.

Unfavorable developments in all areas of competence can also be seen among children from non-immigrant families.

However, it was not just the skills in the three areas that were tested.

They were also asked about their self-assessment, which was also positive in German and mathematics in 2021.

However, girls report stereotypically higher values ​​in German and boys in mathematics.

In German, the students rate their German skills as lower than in 2016. The interest of the students in both subjects has decreased significantly.

Surprisingly, immigrant children (first generation) are more satisfied with school than students from non-immigrant families.

Overall, the disparities between immigrant schoolchildren, especially of the first generation, and German schoolchildren have increased considerably.

It hurts him that "the school closures had the worst effects on children with learning problems," said Hamburg's school senator and coordinator of the social-democratic states Ties Rabe (SPD).

The Hessian Minister of Education, Alexander Lorz, who coordinates the states governed by the Union, sees the results as “an obligation for us as politicians to put the interests of young students in the foreground even more than before in all future pandemic decisions.”