New data on COVID and education confirm trends, but there is also some hope

One of the most-read posts on this blog the past few weeks was on the effect the pandemic has had on education. Bottom-line of the 3 studies I mentioned in that post: the online learning didn’t have the same effect for most of the pupils and students and inequality has been on the rise.

This last insight is now also confirmed by another new study by Andrew Bacher-HicksJoshua Goodman & Christine Mulhern based on internet searches:

We use high frequency internet search data to study in real time how US households sought out online learning resources as schools closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. By April 2020, nationwide search intensity for both school- and parent-centered online learning resources had roughly doubled relative to baseline. Areas of the country with higher income, better internet access and fewer rural schools saw substantially larger increases in search intensity. The pandemic will likely widen achievement gaps along these dimensions given schools’ and parents’ differing engagement with online resources to compensate for lost school-based learning time. Accounting for such differences and promoting more equitable access to online learning could improve the effectiveness of education policy responses to the pandemic. The public availability of internet search data allows our analyses to be updated when schools reopen and to be replicated in other countries.

(H/T Sara Hjelm for pointing out this study to me)

In the meantime, we also have results of what the effects have been in France. Stanislas Dehaene shared some of the insights on Twitter and he states that it doesn’t seem that the pupils will have a lost year due to Corona on average, but again inequality has become bigger again while education had become more equal in France in 2019.

I tried to find the study, but haven’t found it yet. Mail me if you have it!

But let us end with a third study by Gonzalez et al with some hope:

This study analyzes the effects of COVID-19 confinement on the autonomous learning performance of students in higher education. Using a field experiment with 458 students from three different subjects at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain), we study the differences in assessments by dividing students into two groups. The first group (control) corresponds to academic years 2017/2018 and 2018/2019. The second group (experimental) corresponds to students from 2019/2020, which is the group of students that had their face-to-face activities interrupted because of the confinement. The results show that there is a significant positive effect of the COVID-19 confinement on students’ performance. This effect is also significant in activities that did not change their format when performed after the confinement. We find that this effect is significant both in subjects that increased the number of assessment activities and subjects that did not change the student workload. Additionally, an analysis of students’ learning strategies before confinement shows that students did not study on a continuous basis. Based on these results, we conclude that COVID-19 confinement changed students’ learning strategies to a more continuous habit, improving their efficiency. For these reasons, better scores in students’ assessment are expected due to COVID-19 confinement that can be explained by an improvement in their learning performance.

A key difference is that this study is focusing on students in higher education, maybe explaining the difference with the other studies.

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