School closures introduced as a result of the coronavirus will affect employment prospects for decades and significantly reduce expected wages, according to a recent study by Júlia Varga, a research advisor at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA).
The learning losses due to the school closures of the first year and a half of the coronavirus are so high that the expected salaries of the affected students could be reduced by 16-26 percent, according to the study published in Munkaerőpiaci Tükör. Varga points out that if there are no serious catch-up programs, students who have experienced school closures will receive significantly lower salaries than their peers who have been in full-time education.
As Telex reports, the school closures introduced in the first two years of the coronavirus epidemic were the longest since the Second World War, and as the study suggests, they will have a significant impact on the progress of the pupils affected.
- Even before Covid, a number of experts had already looked at the impact on the education of school closures due to wars or local disasters, and have shown that closures can affect the labor market opportunities of those affected for decades.
- Initial studies on the impact of the coronavirus epidemic concluded that the infrastructural and organizational difficulties of moving from in-person to online education will increase inequalities between and within countries in Europe.
- It has also been shown previously that the class that experienced the outbreak in 2020 as third-graders will be at least a year and a half behind those who were able to learn from the classroom all the way to the end of tenth grade.
According to Varga’s calculations, Hungarian schools were closed for an average of around 52% of all normal school hours in the second half of the 2019/2020 school year and in the 2020/2021 school year. The study looked at this year and a half.
Varga compared the data from the 2018 PISA survey to how much progress students would have made in the first year and a half of the epidemic if they had remained in attendance, and how much progress they have made (or have not made) due to the introduction of distance education.
FactThe Program for International Student Assessment (PISA)
is a worldwide study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in member and non-member nations intended
to evaluate educational systems by measuring 15-year-old students’ scholastic performance in mathematics, science, and reading. It was first performed in 2000, and then repeated every three years. Its aim is to provide comparable data with the goal of enabling countries to improve their education policies and outcomes. It measures problem solving and cognition.
The last PISA survey before the pandemic in 2018, measured the effectiveness of on-site learning, and it showed that Hungarian schoolchildren improved their skills by 38-39 PISA points in one school year. But the last two years of Western European research suggests that even a week of quarantine lockdown results in a loss of 1-3 PISA points due to inadequate learning environments and forgetting material.
However, students’ learning losses must be differentiated according to their socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. Even before the epidemic, this was the main determinant of educational outcomes.
Varga modeled three scenarios to assess learning losses:
- The first scenario assumes that the performance of all students uniformly deteriorates at the lowest estimated rate of 1 PISA point for each week of distance education, while during face-to-face education they improve at the usual annual rate of 38-39 PISA points.
- The second and third scenarios assume that losses due to closures affect students from different family backgrounds differently. Here, the research assumes that students in the top socio-economic-cultural quartile suffered no learning losses, those in the middle two quartiles were left behind on average, while those in the bottom quartile suffered one and a half times as much. The second scenario expects the middle two quarters to lose 1 point per week, and the bottom one and a half points.
- The third scenario is 3 points for the second and third quarters and 3.5 points for the lowest.
Based on the assumption that Hungarian students in normal education display a learning progress of 38-39 PISA points per year, this should have been an average of about 58 points in the first one and a half years of the coronavirus closures. However, the rates of learning loss due to missed lessons and forgetting material due to the closures were 63, 54, and 91 points in the three scenarios outlined above.
According to a study by the Center for Economic and Regional Studies (KRTK), even in the best-case scenario, students from good family backgrounds made only minimal (4-point) academic progress in the year and a half of closure, while those from poor backgrounds lagged behind. In the other two scenarios, however, the learning losses in this year and a half were so large that they exceeded even the rate of progress due to education.
According to the third estimate, regression exceeded learning progress by a factor of one and a half, meaning that Hungarian students in June 2021 had much worse skills than in January 2020, when the epidemic began.
Although it is an exaggeration to assume a direct proportionality, Telex reports, if an improvement of 38 PISA points results in an 11 percent increase in wages, a loss of 54-91 points could reduce the expected wages of students who have to endure distance learning (or drop out of education altogether) by 16-26 percent. These figures are rough estimates, and the three scenarios produce quite different results. What they do illustrate very well, however, is that school closures will affect the labor market opportunities of all the cohorts concerned.
According to Júlia Varga, these losses could still be compensated for by serious catch-up programs, but there is little evidence of these in the schools that have reverted to on-site attendance. In these circumstances, a year and a half of closures will have an impact on the development of the whole generation concerned.
Featured image via Sándor Ujvári/MTI