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After more than a year of COVID-19 crisis and the school closures that followed
all around the world, the concerns about lower learning growth and exacerbated
inequalities are larger than ever. In this paper, we use unique data to analyse how one full year of COVID-19 crisis in Dutch primary education has affected learning growth and pre-existing inequalities. We draw on a dataset that includes around 330,000 Dutch primary school students from about 1,600 schools, with standardized test scores for reading, spelling and mathematics, as well as rich (family) background information of the students. The results show a lower learning growth over a full year for all three domains, varying from 0.06 standard deviations for spelling to 0.12 for maths and 0.17 standard deviations for reading. Furthermore, we find that the lower learning growth is (much) larger for vulnerable students with a low socioeconomic background. This implies that pre-existing inequalities between students from different backgrounds have increased. These results are quite alarming and suggest that distance learning
could not compensate for classroom teaching, although it prevented some
damage that would have occurred if students had not enjoyed any formal education at all.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationMaastricht
Number of pages58
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2021

Publication series

SeriesROA Research Memoranda

JEL classifications

  • i24 - Education and Inequality
  • i20 - Education and Research Institutions: General
  • i21 - Analysis of Education
  • c90 - Design of Experiments: General


  • school closures
  • COVID-19 crisis
  • learning growth
  • inequality
  • socioeconomic status (SES)
  • family situation
  • Primary Education

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