Devastating Impact of Pandemic on School Learning: New Evidence from 15 Countries

The pandemic has had a devastating effect on the academic progress of school-aged children worldwide.[0] Results from the 2022 US National Assessment of Educational Progress exams showed that fourth- and eighth-graders fell behind in reading and had the largest ever decline in math.[1] A Pew Research Center survey from October suggested that 61% of parents of K-12 students say the first year of the pandemic had a negative effect on their children’s education.[2]

A new paper published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour adds to the mounting evidence of the pandemic’s impact on learning. The paper included data from 15 different countries, and found that students “lost out on about 35% of a normal school year’s worth of learning” when in-person learning stopped during the public health crisis.[3]

“We know from the existing evidence in general that education is one of, if not the key predictor, for children's school-to-work transition, their success in the labor market, their success in building up their own livelihoods,” said Bastian Betthäuser, a sociologist at the University of Oxford and a co-author of the study.[4] “So I think this is potentially going to be a real problem for this generation that experienced the pandemic in school.”[4]

The researchers also found that the learning deficits were more pronounced for children from less advantaged socio-economic backgrounds. While there was a lack of data from lower-income countries, the authors predict that the pandemic’s effects on learning will be more severe for children in poorer regions.

“I do believe parents should be concerned about their children’s missed learning as a result of the pandemic,” said Stanford University professor Susanna Loeb.[1] There is a plethora of evidence indicating that the knowledge attained in school is instrumental in a student's later achievements, such as high school graduation, college attendance, potential labor market opportunities, and overall long-term prosperity.[2] By encouraging their children to reconnect with their peers and educators as well as adopt beneficial study practices, parents can be of assistance.[2]

0. “Children lost about 35% of normal school year's worth of learning during pandemic, study suggests”, 30 Jan. 2023,

1. “Children lost about 35% of a normal school year's worth of learning during the pandemic, study suggests”, 30 Jan. 2023,

2. “Children lost about 35% of a normal school year's worth of learning during the pandemic, study suggests” – WKBT, 30 Jan. 2023,

3. “COVID-19 may have impacted our children's learning progress in school: Where do we go from here?” WBAL Radio, 30 Jan. 2023,

4. “Students worldwide lost 1/3 of a year of learning during pandemic” Fronteras: The Changing America Desk, 30 Jan. 2023,