The temporary closure of schools to prevent the spread of COVID-19 deprived many children around the world of an in-person formal education. This column examines the effects of school closures on the cognitive and non-cognitive abilities of public primary school students in Japan. Maths test scores (cognitive skills) fell in the short term but recovered significantly once schools reopened. In the same period, student’s attitudes towards proactive learning (non-cognitive skills) were actually higher than in previous cohorts. Finally, students who were more disadvantaged in their living conditions during and after the closure, younger students, and students with lower achievement experienced more long-lasting negative effects of the closure.
From March 2020, 188 countries closed schools temporarily to prevent the spread of COVID-19, causing approximately 1.5 billion students to lose the opportunity to receive an in-person formal education (OECD 2021, UNESCO 2021) during that period. In Japan, elementary, junior high, and high schools, as well as schools for special needs education, were temporarily closed nationwide from 2 March 2020, but in-person classes resumed three months later, at the beginning of June, even in areas where the COVID-19 infection situation was severe.
More than two years after the school closures began in March 2020 (as of October 2022), studies have shown that the temporary closure of schools due to COVID-19 has worsened student academic performance in many countries and regions (Engzell et al. 2021, Gore et al. 2021, Kuhfeld et al. 2020, Maldonado and De Witte 2022, Tomasik et al. 2021) Furthermore, in Japan, Doi et al. (2021) found that the closure of pre-schools worsened the non-cognitive abilities of pre-school children.
The effects of COVID-19 school closures varied among students. For example, students from disadvantaged schools and residential areas (Agostinelli et al. 2020, Gore et al. 2021, Maldonado and De Witte 2021), students with low parental educational attainment (Engzell et al. 2021), students with lower academic achievement during the pandemic (Clark et al. 2021), and relatively younger students (Tomasik et al. 2021) experienced greater decline in academic performance.
To read the full text:
“How Has the COVID-19 Pandemic Affected Education Inequality?”
KOBAYASHI Yohei (Consulting fellow, RIETI) / NISHIHATA Masaya (Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting)
“Impact of COVID-19 School Closures on the Cognitive and Non-cognitive Skills of Elementary School Students”
ASAKAWA Shinsuke (Saga University) / OHTAKE Fumio (Faculty Fellow, RIETI)
“Does Computer-aided Instruction Improve Children's Cognitive and Non-cognitive Skills? Evidence from Cambodia”
ITO Hirotake (Keio University) / KASAI Keiko (Keio Research Institute at SFC) / NAKAMURO Makiko (Keio University)
“The Effects of Personality Traits and Behavioral Characteristics on Schooling, Earnings, and Career Promotion”
LEE SunYoun (Meiji Gakuin University) /OHTAKE Fumio (Osaka University)
Our latest discussion paper
Inequalities in Student Learning and Screen Time Due to COVID-19: Evidence from Japan
NISHIHATA Masaya (Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting) / KOBAYASHI Yohei (Consulting Fellow, RIETI)
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