What is it about?

The effects of school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic on student learning are unclear. Using a dataset of exam scores of students aged 8–11 years that covered 15% of all primary schools in the Netherlands, this study examined the effects of school closures on learning. Analysis of exam scores before and after an 8-week nationwide lockdown in 2020, when face-to-face instruction was suspended, revealed a learning loss of 3 percentile points—equivalent to one-fifth of a typical school year—compared with the same period in the preceding 3 years. The loss was exacerbated among students from less well-educated homes, indicating the closures’ uneven demographic toll on student learning.

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Why is it important?

School closures have been a common tool in the battle against COVID-19. Yet, their costs and benefits remain insufficiently known. We use a natural experiment that occurred as national examinations in The Netherlands took place before and after lockdown to evaluate the impact of school closures on students’ learning. The Netherlands is interesting as a “best-case” scenario, with a short lockdown, equitable school funding, and world-leading rates of broadband access. Despite favorable conditions, we find that students made little or no progress while learning from home. Learning loss was most pronounced among students from disadvantaged home

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This page is a summary of: Learning loss due to school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, April 2021, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2022376118.
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