Closing schools for covid-19 does lifelong harm and widens inequality

Basic information
Date of placement
60
0
0

Primary schools in particular are vital to social mobility

International | The Economist

IN THE STREETS of Amsterdam children spend the “corona holiday” whizzing around on scooters; their peers in Madrid are mostly stuck at home with video games; those in Dakar look after younger siblings. The one place they are not is at school. Over three-quarters of the world’s roughly 1.5bn schoolchildren are barred from the classroom, according to UNESCO, a UN agency. In most of China and in South Korea they have not darkened school doors since January. In Portugal and California they will not return before September.

Schools have striven to remain open during wars, famines and even storms. The extent and length of school closures now happening in the rich world are unprecedented. The costs are horrifying. Most immediately, having to take care of children limits the productivity of parents. But in the long run that will be dwarfed by the amount of lost learning. Those costs will fall most heavily on those children who are most in need of education. Without interventions the effects could last a lifetime.

For these reasons Singapore in 2003 cut its month-long June holiday by two weeks to make up for a fortnight of school closures during the SARS epidemic. Closing schools even briefly hurts children’s prospects. In America third-graders (seven-year-olds) affected by weather-related closures do less well in state exams. French-speaking Belgian students hit by a two-month teachers’ strike in 1990 were more likely to repeat a grade, and less likely to complete higher education, than similar Flemish-speaking students not affected by the strike. According to some studies, over the long summer break young children in America lose between 20% and 50% of the skills they gained over the school year.

Closures will hurt the youngest schoolchildren most. “You can make up for lost maths with summer school. But you can’t easily do that with the stuff kids learn very young,” says Matthias Doepke of Northwestern University. Social and emotional skills such as critical thinking, perseverance and self-control are predictors of many things, from academic success and employment to good health and the likelihood of going to jail. Whereas older children can be plonked in front of a computer, younger ones learn far more when digital study is supervised by an adult.

Then there are those who are missing crucial exams. Germany is reopening schools for final-year high-school students who face exams soon. But most countries are not willing to do that. China has postponed its Leaving Certificate exam (gaokao) until July. Britain and France have cancelled this year’s exams. Grades will in part be decided by teachers’ predictions of how a student might have performed. This fuels fears about inequality, as some experts worry teachers unconsciously discriminate against disadvantaged children and give them unfairly low marks.

Statistics Norway estimates “conservatively” that the country’s educational shutdowns—from crèches to high schools—are costing NKr1,809 ($173) per child each day. Most of that is an estimate of how much less today’s schoolchildren will earn in the future because their education has been disrupted. (It is assumed they are learning roughly half of what they normally would.) The rest is lost parental productivity today.

Of course schooling has not stopped completely, as it does during holidays. Nearly nine in ten affected rich countries are providing some form of distance-learning (compared with fewer than one in four poor countries). But video-conferencing has its limits. For poorer children, internet connections may be ropey. Devices may have to be shared and homes may be overcrowded or noisy. Of the poorest quarter of American children, one in four does not have access to a computer at home.

Less well-off children everywhere are less likely to have well-educated parents who coax them to attend remote lessons and help them with their work. In Britain more than half of pupils in private schools are taking part in daily online classes, compared with just one in five of their peers in state schools, according to the Sutton Trust, a charity (private schools are more likely to offer such lessons). In the first weeks of the lockdown some American schools reported that over a third of their students had not even logged in to the school system, let alone attended classes. Meanwhile, elite schools report nearly full attendance and the rich have hired teachers as full-time tutors.

Ashley Farris, an English teacher at KIPP high school in Denver, Colorado, says several of “her” kids are virtual truants. Her school worked hard to get students computers and Wi-Fi access, but the digital gap is only part of the story. Some must work to make up for parents’ lost wages. Others must look after younger siblings.

Closures in Britain could increase the gap in school performance between children on school meals (a proxy for economic disadvantage) and those not on school meals, fears Becky Francis of the Education Endowment Foundation, another charity. Over the past decade the gap, measured by grades in tests, has narrowed by roughly 10%, but she thinks school closures could, at the very least, reverse this progress. At least over summer, teachers are not on tap for anyone. In the current lockdown some students can still quench their thirst for education not just with highly educated parents but also with teachers; others will have access to neither.

Primary school is normally a crucial opportunity for gaps that emerged in early-years development to start narrowing, or at least to stop widening. That opportunity is now being missed. For a glimpse of the cost to the unluckiest young children, consider the Perry pre-school project of the 1960s, a study conducted in Ypsilanti, Michigan, which found that a control group of young children from disadvantaged backgrounds who did not attend pre-school suffered lifelong consequences.

Mr Doepke estimates that by the autumn the sizeable group of American children whose learning loss started when schools closed might have lost as much as a year’s learning. Since every year of education is associated with an increase in annual earnings of roughly 10%, the consequences for those children become clear. “I fear we will see further inequality and less social mobility if nothing is done,” he adds.

What can be done to limit the costs? Finland started distance learning only when it was satisfied that almost every child would be able to take part. South Korea extended its school holiday to prepare teachers and distribute devices where needed. “For my school of 1,000 students, just 13 borrowed tablets because they had several siblings in their house,” says Hyunsu Hwang, an English teacher at Inmyung Girls High School, in Incheon. Teachers now use a mixture of real-time interactive classes, pre-recorded material and homework-based digital classes. When schools began to reopen on April 9th, official attendance was 98%.

School systems where children are used to having to teach themselves will do better, reckons Andreas Schleicher of the OECD, a club of rich countries. “The real issue is if you’ve been spoon-fed by a teacher every day and are now told to go it alone, what will motivate you?” In Estonia and Japan students are used to “self-regulated activities”; across the OECD the share is nearly 40%. But in countries such as France and Spain, such autonomy is rare.

In the end, the only way to ensure all children get an education is to reopen the doors. At the Alan Turing primary school in Amsterdam, it quickly became clear that 28 of its 190 pupils could not take part in online classes. The school now opens its doors for 15 from this group three mornings a week and has found other ways to help the remaining 13, such as arranging for them to get assistance from their neighbours. “At first it felt like we were doing something illegal,” says Eva Naaijkens, the headmistress, “but how can you accept a situation where a number of children just drop out?” She estimates that, working remotely, her teachers can impart perhaps 40% of the education they would normally.

As well as letting final-year secondary-school students facing exams resume classes, Denmark has also begun to reopen crèches and primary schools. It has made a priority of the very young for several reasons. The early stage of learning is crucial. The burden toddlers place on parents is heavy. And the risk of young kids getting or spreading the virus appears low.

Around the world many parents will be hoping their children’s schools can also safely reopen soon. Some children may have mixed feelings about swapping extra Xbox time for geography lessons. Tough luck: holidays have to end sometime. For the future well-being of whippersnappers scooting around the streets of Amsterdam, it is good news that Dutch primary schools will partially reopen on May 11th.

This article appeared in the International section of the print edition under the headline "No more pencils, no more books"

Reuse this contentThe Trust Project

(0)
0.0
Dislike 0
ОТН 0
Like 0

News list


15:50 Home prices in NL to increase 4% this year: ABN Amro
15:43 ‘Artefact detectives’ in Iraq aim to end the theft of their history
15:39 Archaeologists & filmmakers dig up the past of UAE’s Shamash temple
15:30 Moderation
15:05 [Ticker] Sweden halts Iran Air flights after crash
15:01 Middle East crisis: EU's delicate balancing act between Washington and Tehran
15:00 Dutch soldiers in Iraq safe, together, Defense Min. says
14:59 Outrage over reports EU-funding linked to forced labour in Eritrea
14:45 Meeting between the College of Commissioners and the Members of the Parliamentary Groups
14:33 [Ticker] Spanish court: EP must end Catalan MEP immunity
14:10 Boy, 10, randomly assaulted by woman on Haarlem street
14:01 Dutch cabinet now in favor of new fireworks limits and regulations
14:00 Girls more likely to be harassed, stalked online
13:51 2nd EU Clean Air Forum (Bratislava, 28-29 November 2019) - Part 2/3
13:49 [Ticker] Orban to offer free IVF in anti-immigrant move
13:27 Hate speech has 'no place' in Austria, says Kurz, after Bosnian-born minister receives abuse
13:20 Dutch car rolls in Belgium; deceased victims discovered hours later
13:00 Trump proposes 'NATOME': NATO expanded to MidEast
12:35 Lack of career prospects leaves care workers to quit, says report
12:35 Singer songwriter Jeangu Macrooy is Dutch Eurovision entry- AD
12:35 Defrosted kingfisher rejoins museum collection of dead animals
12:35 Saba again present at Holiday Fair - Saba News
12:35 Politicians should take responsibility for their own laws, says legal chief
12:35 ChristenUnie calls for firework clubs, backs ban on consumer sales
12:35 Good weather will bring clear views of partial lunar eclipse
12:35 'Explosive' growth in Amsterdam hotels despite stricter limits
12:35 More violent incidents at New Year, but fewer people are arrested
12:30 Number of hotels in Amsterdam region skyrocketing: report
12:05 [Ticker] Von der Leyen: 'Influential' EU means talk and trade
12:00 Pope Francis: "US-Iran tensions threaten rebuilding of Iraq"
11:40 More than 9,300 incidents over New Year's: police
11:30 Friends of plane crash victims mourn loss
11:21 EC Midday press briefing of 10/01/2020
11:20 2nd EU Clean Air Forum (Bratislava, 28-29 November 2019) - Part 1/3
11:18 Croatian Presidency of EU Council: press conference opening remarks by President von der Leyen
11:15 Croatian Presidency of EU Council: opening remarks by Croatian Prime Minister and President of EC
11:00 DUTCH RAILROAD CROSSING - Geldermalsen - Voetakkerweg
11:00 DUTCH RAILROAD CROSSING - Prinsenbeek - Spoorstraat
10:50 Girl, 10, dies after falling from asylum center's window
10:43 Compilatie 24H ‘Ontdek je stad’ 2019
10:32 Ontdek Amerfoort #Citytrip
10:26 UK accused of 'behaving like cowboys' over EU database copying
10:26 Men in west London have highest male life expectancy in EU - Life expectancy
10:24 Ursula Von Der Leyen and Croatian PM Andrej Plenkovic talk to the press | LIVE
10:00 Car with possible explosives found in Gelderland town; link with ATM bombing investigated
09:40 Viktor Orbán threatens new Europe grouping to rival 'weaker' EPP
09:39 Stockpiling for the New Year
09:37 European ministers meet to salvage Iran nuclear deal
09:35 President von der Leyen meets with Andrej Plenkovic, Croatian Prime Minister
09:30 Dutch Listening Practice - Talking About a School Trip in the Netherlands
09:28 [Ticker] Johnson suggests Iran crash was 'unintentional' missile
09:22 In Myanmar Armys Corner, Aung San Suu Kyi Will Defend It in Rohingya Genocide Case
09:16 Trudeau: Canadians deserve answers on plane crash
09:10 Man, 68, arrested for taping jerry can to Leeuwarden train
09:09 Iran denies that it brought down Ukrainian plane with a missile
08:49 Ask Our Astronaut | What's next in space exploration?
08:18 8 teams who saw their seasons ruined by international breaks
08:17 Judiciary Council calls politicians to stop blaming judges for unpleasant rulings
07:45 Iranian missile caused crash of Ukrainian Boeing 737: Officials
07:39 House of Commons passes Brexit bill for UK departure from EU on January 31
07:37 Gay, bisexual young people over twice as likely to be harassed, stalked online
07:01 Canadian PM called PM Rutte about MH17 after Tehran plane crash
06:37 Only let specialized clubs light fireworks, coalition party says
06:27 [Ticker] Swiss afraid of EU wage dumping
06:25 [Ticker] Orban to start new EU movement if kicked out of EPP
06:24 [Ticker] EU blasts Israeli settlements on 'occupied' land
06:15 Croatian PM Optimistic About EU Talks For North Macedonia, Albania
06:10 ABN Amro names PwC's former Dutch chairman as new CEO
06:07 South Mississippi Strong- Mag Holland is an angel devoted to helping others
06:04 MEPs slam UK for violating EU police database
06:03 EU regions: don’t touch cohesion funds for Green Deal
06:02 [Opinion] Europe, Scotland and Brexit - what next?
06:02 [Ticker] Brexit back on EU presidency agenda next week
06:01 [Ticker] President of European Court of Justice lambasts Poland
06:01 [Ticker] Athens asks for US help in east Mediterranean
06:01 [Ticker] Ukraine investigators want to search Iran plane crash site
04:32 How polluted is the air where you live?
04:14 Poisonous caterpillar to strike earlier than usual this year

11:18 Croatian Presidency of EU Council: press conference opening remarks by President von der Leyen
10:50 Girl, 10, dies after falling from asylum center's window
10:43 Compilatie 24H ‘Ontdek je stad’ 2019
09:35 President von der Leyen meets with Andrej Plenkovic, Croatian Prime Minister
09:28 [Ticker] Johnson suggests Iran crash was 'unintentional' missile
07:45 Iranian missile caused crash of Ukrainian Boeing 737: Officials
07:37 Gay, bisexual young people over twice as likely to be harassed, stalked online
06:24 [Ticker] EU blasts Israeli settlements on 'occupied' land
04:14 Poisonous caterpillar to strike earlier than usual this year
14:10 Boy, 10, randomly assaulted by woman on Haarlem street
13:51 2nd EU Clean Air Forum (Bratislava, 28-29 November 2019) - Part 2/3
13:20 Dutch car rolls in Belgium; deceased victims discovered hours later
11:40 More than 9,300 incidents over New Year's: police
11:20 2nd EU Clean Air Forum (Bratislava, 28-29 November 2019) - Part 1/3
10:32 Ontdek Amerfoort #Citytrip
09:40 Viktor Orbán threatens new Europe grouping to rival 'weaker' EPP
09:16 Trudeau: Canadians deserve answers on plane crash
09:10 Man, 68, arrested for taping jerry can to Leeuwarden train
09:09 Iran denies that it brought down Ukrainian plane with a missile
07:01 Canadian PM called PM Rutte about MH17 after Tehran plane crash
06:37 Only let specialized clubs light fireworks, coalition party says
06:15 Croatian PM Optimistic About EU Talks For North Macedonia, Albania
06:01 [Ticker] President of European Court of Justice lambasts Poland
06:01 [Ticker] Ukraine investigators want to search Iran plane crash site
15:50 Home prices in NL to increase 4% this year: ABN Amro
15:43 ‘Artefact detectives’ in Iraq aim to end the theft of their history
15:39 Archaeologists & filmmakers dig up the past of UAE’s Shamash temple
15:30 Moderation
15:05 [Ticker] Sweden halts Iran Air flights after crash
15:01 Middle East crisis: EU's delicate balancing act between Washington and Tehran
15:00 Dutch soldiers in Iraq safe, together, Defense Min. says
14:59 Outrage over reports EU-funding linked to forced labour in Eritrea
14:45 Meeting between the College of Commissioners and the Members of the Parliamentary Groups
14:33 [Ticker] Spanish court: EP must end Catalan MEP immunity
14:01 Dutch cabinet now in favor of new fireworks limits and regulations
14:00 Girls more likely to be harassed, stalked online
13:49 [Ticker] Orban to offer free IVF in anti-immigrant move
13:27 Hate speech has 'no place' in Austria, says Kurz, after Bosnian-born minister receives abuse
13:00 Trump proposes 'NATOME': NATO expanded to MidEast
12:35 Lack of career prospects leaves care workers to quit, says report
12:35 Singer songwriter Jeangu Macrooy is Dutch Eurovision entry- AD
12:35 Defrosted kingfisher rejoins museum collection of dead animals
12:35 Saba again present at Holiday Fair - Saba News
12:35 Politicians should take responsibility for their own laws, says legal chief
12:35 ChristenUnie calls for firework clubs, backs ban on consumer sales
12:35 Good weather will bring clear views of partial lunar eclipse
12:35 'Explosive' growth in Amsterdam hotels despite stricter limits
12:35 More violent incidents at New Year, but fewer people are arrested
12:30 Number of hotels in Amsterdam region skyrocketing: report
12:05 [Ticker] Von der Leyen: 'Influential' EU means talk and trade
12:00 Pope Francis: "US-Iran tensions threaten rebuilding of Iraq"
11:30 Friends of plane crash victims mourn loss
11:21 EC Midday press briefing of 10/01/2020
11:15 Croatian Presidency of EU Council: opening remarks by Croatian Prime Minister and President of EC
11:00 DUTCH RAILROAD CROSSING - Geldermalsen - Voetakkerweg
11:00 DUTCH RAILROAD CROSSING - Prinsenbeek - Spoorstraat
10:26 UK accused of 'behaving like cowboys' over EU database copying
10:26 Men in west London have highest male life expectancy in EU - Life expectancy
10:24 Ursula Von Der Leyen and Croatian PM Andrej Plenkovic talk to the press | LIVE
10:00 Car with possible explosives found in Gelderland town; link with ATM bombing investigated
09:39 Stockpiling for the New Year
09:37 European ministers meet to salvage Iran nuclear deal
09:30 Dutch Listening Practice - Talking About a School Trip in the Netherlands
09:22 In Myanmar Armys Corner, Aung San Suu Kyi Will Defend It in Rohingya Genocide Case
08:49 Ask Our Astronaut | What's next in space exploration?
08:18 8 teams who saw their seasons ruined by international breaks
08:17 Judiciary Council calls politicians to stop blaming judges for unpleasant rulings
07:39 House of Commons passes Brexit bill for UK departure from EU on January 31
06:27 [Ticker] Swiss afraid of EU wage dumping
06:25 [Ticker] Orban to start new EU movement if kicked out of EPP
06:10 ABN Amro names PwC's former Dutch chairman as new CEO
06:07 South Mississippi Strong- Mag Holland is an angel devoted to helping others
06:04 MEPs slam UK for violating EU police database
06:03 EU regions: don’t touch cohesion funds for Green Deal
06:02 [Opinion] Europe, Scotland and Brexit - what next?
06:02 [Ticker] Brexit back on EU presidency agenda next week
06:01 [Ticker] Athens asks for US help in east Mediterranean
04:32 How polluted is the air where you live?

15:50 Home prices in NL to increase 4% this year: ABN Amro
15:43 ‘Artefact detectives’ in Iraq aim to end the theft of their history
15:39 Archaeologists & filmmakers dig up the past of UAE’s Shamash temple
15:30 Moderation
15:05 [Ticker] Sweden halts Iran Air flights after crash
15:01 Middle East crisis: EU's delicate balancing act between Washington and Tehran
15:00 Dutch soldiers in Iraq safe, together, Defense Min. says
14:59 Outrage over reports EU-funding linked to forced labour in Eritrea
14:45 Meeting between the College of Commissioners and the Members of the Parliamentary Groups
14:33 [Ticker] Spanish court: EP must end Catalan MEP immunity
14:10 Boy, 10, randomly assaulted by woman on Haarlem street
14:01 Dutch cabinet now in favor of new fireworks limits and regulations
14:00 Girls more likely to be harassed, stalked online
13:51 2nd EU Clean Air Forum (Bratislava, 28-29 November 2019) - Part 2/3
13:49 [Ticker] Orban to offer free IVF in anti-immigrant move
13:27 Hate speech has 'no place' in Austria, says Kurz, after Bosnian-born minister receives abuse
13:20 Dutch car rolls in Belgium; deceased victims discovered hours later
13:00 Trump proposes 'NATOME': NATO expanded to MidEast
12:35 Lack of career prospects leaves care workers to quit, says report
12:35 Singer songwriter Jeangu Macrooy is Dutch Eurovision entry- AD
12:35 Defrosted kingfisher rejoins museum collection of dead animals
12:35 Saba again present at Holiday Fair - Saba News
12:35 Politicians should take responsibility for their own laws, says legal chief
12:35 ChristenUnie calls for firework clubs, backs ban on consumer sales
12:35 Good weather will bring clear views of partial lunar eclipse
12:35 'Explosive' growth in Amsterdam hotels despite stricter limits
12:35 More violent incidents at New Year, but fewer people are arrested
12:30 Number of hotels in Amsterdam region skyrocketing: report
12:05 [Ticker] Von der Leyen: 'Influential' EU means talk and trade
12:00 Pope Francis: "US-Iran tensions threaten rebuilding of Iraq"
11:40 More than 9,300 incidents over New Year's: police
11:30 Friends of plane crash victims mourn loss
11:21 EC Midday press briefing of 10/01/2020
11:20 2nd EU Clean Air Forum (Bratislava, 28-29 November 2019) - Part 1/3
11:18 Croatian Presidency of EU Council: press conference opening remarks by President von der Leyen
11:15 Croatian Presidency of EU Council: opening remarks by Croatian Prime Minister and President of EC
11:00 DUTCH RAILROAD CROSSING - Geldermalsen - Voetakkerweg
11:00 DUTCH RAILROAD CROSSING - Prinsenbeek - Spoorstraat
10:50 Girl, 10, dies after falling from asylum center's window
10:43 Compilatie 24H ‘Ontdek je stad’ 2019
10:32 Ontdek Amerfoort #Citytrip
10:26 UK accused of 'behaving like cowboys' over EU database copying
10:26 Men in west London have highest male life expectancy in EU - Life expectancy
10:24 Ursula Von Der Leyen and Croatian PM Andrej Plenkovic talk to the press | LIVE
10:00 Car with possible explosives found in Gelderland town; link with ATM bombing investigated
09:40 Viktor Orbán threatens new Europe grouping to rival 'weaker' EPP
09:39 Stockpiling for the New Year
09:37 European ministers meet to salvage Iran nuclear deal
09:35 President von der Leyen meets with Andrej Plenkovic, Croatian Prime Minister
09:30 Dutch Listening Practice - Talking About a School Trip in the Netherlands
09:28 [Ticker] Johnson suggests Iran crash was 'unintentional' missile
09:22 In Myanmar Armys Corner, Aung San Suu Kyi Will Defend It in Rohingya Genocide Case
09:16 Trudeau: Canadians deserve answers on plane crash
09:10 Man, 68, arrested for taping jerry can to Leeuwarden train
09:09 Iran denies that it brought down Ukrainian plane with a missile
08:49 Ask Our Astronaut | What's next in space exploration?
08:18 8 teams who saw their seasons ruined by international breaks
08:17 Judiciary Council calls politicians to stop blaming judges for unpleasant rulings
07:45 Iranian missile caused crash of Ukrainian Boeing 737: Officials
07:39 House of Commons passes Brexit bill for UK departure from EU on January 31
07:37 Gay, bisexual young people over twice as likely to be harassed, stalked online
07:01 Canadian PM called PM Rutte about MH17 after Tehran plane crash
06:37 Only let specialized clubs light fireworks, coalition party says
06:27 [Ticker] Swiss afraid of EU wage dumping
06:25 [Ticker] Orban to start new EU movement if kicked out of EPP
06:24 [Ticker] EU blasts Israeli settlements on 'occupied' land
06:15 Croatian PM Optimistic About EU Talks For North Macedonia, Albania
06:10 ABN Amro names PwC's former Dutch chairman as new CEO
06:07 South Mississippi Strong- Mag Holland is an angel devoted to helping others
06:04 MEPs slam UK for violating EU police database
06:03 EU regions: don’t touch cohesion funds for Green Deal
06:02 [Opinion] Europe, Scotland and Brexit - what next?
06:02 [Ticker] Brexit back on EU presidency agenda next week
06:01 [Ticker] President of European Court of Justice lambasts Poland
06:01 [Ticker] Athens asks for US help in east Mediterranean
06:01 [Ticker] Ukraine investigators want to search Iran plane crash site
04:32 How polluted is the air where you live?
04:14 Poisonous caterpillar to strike earlier than usual this year
I agree and close
x Cookies text