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Sharp increase in inequality in education in times of the COVID-19-pandemic

Research Memorandum by Carla Haelermans, Roxanne Korthals, Madelon Jacobs, Suzanne de Leeuw, Stan Vermeulen, Lynn van Vugt, Bas Aarts, Tijana Prokic-Breuer, Rolf van der Velden, Sanne van Wetten, Inge de Wolf

The COVID-19-pandemic forced many countries to close schools abruptly in the spring of 2020. These school closures and the subsequent period of distance learning has led to concerns about increasing inequality in education, as children from lower-educated and poorer families have less access to (additional) resources at home. This study analyzes differences in declines in learning gains in primary education in the Netherlands for reading, spelling and math, using rich data on standardized test scores and register data on student and parental background for almost 300,000 unique students. The results show large inequalities in the learning loss based on parental education and parental income, on top of already existing inequalities. The results call for a national focus on interventions specifically targeting vulnerable students.

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