Several experts are reluctant to interpret a new study on the poorer performance of students in IQ tests after corona-related school closures. A research team led by Moritz Breit from the University of Trier writes in the specialist journal "PLOS ONE" that around six months after the start of the pandemic, schoolchildren from Rhineland-Palatinate scored significantly fewer points on intelligence tests than comparison groups in 2002 and 2012.
Independent experts do not question the results of the study per se, but point out that the results are difficult to generalize. Around half of the participating students attended so-called gifted classes. It is also conceivable that the differences between 2012 and 2020 were also influenced by other factors. The researchers working with Breit also discuss the limitations of their study.
420 students for the IQ test
The researchers had around 420 students in grades 7 to 9 take an IQ test in August and September 2020, and thus after the school closures in Rhineland-Palatinate for these classes from mid-March to early June. The results were significantly worse than tests in a comparison group in 2012. When the majority of the 420 students were tested again in July 2021, the results had improved compared to 2020, but the gap compared to 2012 was not caught up.
Independent experts consider it quite plausible that the impairment in school affects the development of intelligence. However, among other things, the selection of the students is criticized. "The samples are actually quite small for the complex statistical analysis, not to say too small," said Detlef Rost from the Center for Mental Health Education at Southwest University Chongqing in China. This clearly limits the reliability of the findings.
Other factors also come into consideration
In addition, experts say it could be that between 2012 and 2020 other factors, such as the pandemic, also caused students to perform worse on IQ tests. Klaus Zierer, professor of school education at the University of Augsburg, sees digitization as an important factor. "There are studies that show that the duration and type of use of smartphones, for example, has a negative impact on the development of intelligence."