Learning to read has suffered from the pandemic

Class closures during the pandemic have hurt some students so badly that their pass rates on the ministry's reading exam have dropped 11% over the past two years, a study released today reveals.

Learning to read has suffered from the pandemic

Class closures during the pandemic have hurt some students so badly that their pass rates on the ministry's reading exam have dropped 11% over the past two years, a study released today reveals.

"Learning at home is not like at school, especially for children who already have difficulties," says Sylvana Côté, co-director of the Observatory for Children's Education and Health and researcher at the University of Montreal.

Ms. Côté is in Quebec City today with co-director Catherine Haeck, professor of economics at UQAM, to present the results of their study to members of the National Assembly before chairing an ACFAS symposium on the impact of the pandemic on child development.

The team had access to the results of a reading test from the end of the fourth year of elementary school administered by the Quebec Ministry of Education in 2019. They compared them to those obtained in 2021 on the same test as the researchers subjected students of the same age with the collaboration of 600 teachers. The responses of more than 7,500 students from 275 public schools in all regions of Quebec were analyzed.

It was in 2019-2020 that the sanitary measures were the most draconian since the confinement forced the closure of schools for 14 weeks. Last year there were only 8 days of complete closure. But to this assessment, we must add the classes closed here and there due to too many cases of COVID-19 in the groups and the teachers themselves affected by the coronavirus.

The researchers argue that the suspension of school education is not the only variable that can explain the higher failure rate. The context of the examination, which is not compulsory in 2021, the mental health issues and the living environment of the child are also to be taken into account.

Worse for some students

There is no significant difference between boys and girls, but the analysis shows that the lowest performing students suffered the most from the closures while the best students were almost unaffected.

“These results show how essential school is to learning, especially for children who have academic and psychosocial challenges,” underlines Ms. Côté.

In his opinion, the effects of the pandemic observed at the end of the fourth year apply to the entire primary cycle.

* A normal year has 180 days


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