A lot of studies have come come up on how children, especially those from the poor countries, were doing at the time of Covid 19. In a new study, the researchers showed evidence that school closures during the pandemic “severely ruptured” the social and emotional development of some of the world’s poorest children, as well as their academic progress.
In two studies, the researchers from the University of Cambridge, and Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia found that key aspects of children’s social and emotional development, such as their ability to make friends, not only stalled during the school closures, but probably deteriorated.
They noted that children who, prior to the pandemic, felt confident talking to others or got on well with peers were less likely to do so by 2021.
The study was done in over 2,000 primary school pupils in Ethiopia and around 6,000 grade 1 and 4 primary school children. Both studies used data from the Research on Improving Systems of Education (RISE) program in Ethiopia to compare primary education before the pandemic, in the academic year 2018/19, with the situation in 2020/21.
In the first study, researchers compared the numeracy test scores of 2,700 Grade 4 pupils in June 2019 with their scores shortly after they returned to school, in January 2021. They also measured drop-out rates. In addition, they also completed the Children’s Self Report Social Skills scale. In this, the students were asked how much they agreed or disagreed with statements such as “I feel confident talking to others,” “I make friends easily,” and “If I hurt someone, I say sorry.”
The second study measured relative progress during the pandemic using the numeracy scores of two separate cohorts of Grade 1 and Grade 4 pupils. The first of these cohorts was from the pre-pandemic year; the other from 2020/21.
In the study, the researchers found that the children made some academic progress during the closures, but at a slower-than-expected rate. The average foundational numeracy score of Grade 1 pupils in 2020/21 was 15 points behind the 2018/19 cohort. The gap widened to 19 points by the end of the year. . Similarly, Grade 4 students started 2020/21 10 points behind their predecessor cohort, and were 12 points adrift by the end. That difference amounted to roughly one-third of a year’s progress. Similar patterns emerged from the study of children’s numeracy scores before and after the closures.
Poorer children, and those from rural backgrounds, consistently performed worse academically. Drop-out rates revealed similar issues: of the 2,700 children assessed in 2019 and 2021, more than one in 10 (11.3%) dropped out of school during the closures. These were disproportionately girls, or lower-achieving pupils, who tended to be from less wealthy or rural families
The results also show that the social skills of children declined during the closure period, regardless of gender or location. Fewer children agreed in 2021 with statements such as “Other people like me” or “I make friends easily”. The decline in positive responses differed by demographic, and was sharpest among those from rural settings. This may be because children from remote parts of the country experienced greater isolation during lockdown.
The report mentions that the most striking evidence of a rupture in socio-emotional development was the lack of a predictive association between the 2019 and 2021 results. They noted that children who felt confident talking to others before the pandemic, for example, had often changed their minds two years later.
The researchers think that the negative impact on social and emotional development may be linked to the slowdown in academic attainment. Children who did better academically in 2021 tended to report stronger social skills.