To what extent has the learning progress of school-aged children slowed down during the COVID-19 pandemic? A growing number of studies address this question, but findings vary depending on context. Here we conduct a pre-registered systematic review, quality appraisal and meta-analysis of 42 studies across 15 countries to assess the magnitude of learning deficits during the pandemic. We find a substantial overall learning deficit (Cohen’s d = −0.14, 95% confidence interval −0.17 to −0.10), which arose early in the pandemic and persists over time. Learning deficits are particularly large among children from low socio-economic backgrounds. They are also larger in maths than in reading and in middle-income countries relative to high-income countries. There is a lack of evidence on learning progress during the pandemic in low-income countries. Future research should address this evidence gap and avoid the common risks of bias that we identify.
Nature human behaviour