Pre-primary education played ‘protective’ role against COVID learning losses in sub-Saharan Africa

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Researchers have called on aid organizations and sub-Saharan African governments to step up their plans for emergency pre-school education to prevent “alarming” learning losses in the region during the closure of COVID schools.

In a study of more than 2,600 children in Ethiopia, researchers found that among students who entered primary school immediately after school opened, learning losses were much less severe if they attended pre-school education before the COVID-19 outbreak. The shortage of education among children without this preschool experience was four times greater.

Despite this, the study also shows that preschool education was the most neglected part of the Ethiopian government’s response to COVID education. One donor described his distance learning plan for this age group as “vacuum, no responsibility.”

The study was conducted by a team from Cambridge University, the University of Addis Ababa and the Ethiopian Institute for Political Studies. The report is part of a five-year study commissioned by the World Bank’s Early Learning Partnership.

Professor Pauline Rose, director of the Center for Fair Access and Learning (REAL) at Cambridge University School of Education, said: “Our findings from Ethiopia are almost certainly symptoms of the bigger picture. , did not affect how ministries of education responded to the pandemic. “

“It clearly plays a vital protective role in limiting learning losses. With the advent of new variants of the virus, school disruption can easily recur. Plans need to be made to ensure that preschool groups are not left unattended.”

Ethiopian schools have closed for about eight months since March 2020, affecting more than 26 million students, including 3.2 million preschoolers. The study examined both the impact on children’s readiness for primary school and the value of early childhood education in this context.

Initially, researchers tracked the progress of 2,600 children who were preschoolers in the 2019/20 school year and were eligible to enter primary school in the 2020/21 school year. The intermediate period coincided with when schooling was interrupted.

At the beginning of each school year, students took early tests. The researchers then compared the test results of children who attended the O-Class (a preschool education program run by the Ethiopian government) and those who did not attend preschool at all.

Although COVID-19 meant that the O-Class group spent much less time in the classroom than expected, they still performed much better in both counting tests. Their average score rose from 46% at the start of the O-Class to 64% when they entered primary school in 2020/21. The scores of those who did not attend preschool rose from 26% to 46%.

While this indicates that all children have made some progress, it also indicates that those who did not receive formal pre-school education lagged behind their peers for a whole year until they went to primary school. school. Even if the researchers monitored potentially confusing factors such as previous achievement, parental literacy, family wealth, and place of residence; O-grade children were still ahead of eight percentage points.

The results of the title mask deeper inequalities. In the O-class, academic achievement was much greater among boys, from wealthier families, and those with literate caregivers.

To determine how much training was lost during the pandemic, the study compared the group’s test results at the start of primary school, in 2020, with a cohort of 2,700 children who went to primary school in 2018.

The average score in the 2020 cohort was 7.4 percentage points lower than in the pre-pandemic group, taking into account other factors, suggesting that all children experienced some loss of learning due to COVID-19. However, it is important that children’s participation in O-Class has played an important role in reducing learning loss. Compared to the pre-pandemic group, the 2020 cohort that attended preschool scored nine percentage points higher than those that did not attend preschool, taking into account other factors.

Children without pre-school education were also much less likely to enter primary school after the pandemic. About 92% of O-grade children who attended primary school after school resumed, compared with only 50% of children who did not attend preschool.

“The differences are alarming,” Rose said. “Participation in the O-Class has clearly played a role in preventing losses, but so has the wealth of households. We need to be particularly concerned about girls as well as those living in less affluent and rural areas who then missed out and may have stayed now. “.

Researchers also interviewed staff from Ethiopia’s Ministry of Education, the National Examination Agency and relief organizations – along with 480 parents – to assess how pre-school education was handled at the time of the closure.

Representatives of the government and the relief service expressed concern about the lack of a clear strategy for early childhood education. The report notes that the lack of priorities in early childhood education policy and limited coordination between services meant that local resources that might otherwise have supported the learning of young children were not used effectively. Only half of parents and caregivers reported attending training with their children during the closure, and only 10% had contact with a teacher.

The report calls on governments to increase access to quality preschool education and make it central to planning for the resumption of education. It adds that the priority should be children with less affluence, who have clearly lost the most.

“Preschool education poses particular challenges in how to support young children and families when schools close, but that shouldn’t stop us from finding solutions,” Rose said. “These issues need to be addressed now, not in the midst of the next emergency.”

Pandemic that inflicts “almost insurmountable” losses on education worldwide: UNICEF

Provided by Cambridge University

Citation: Preschool education played a “protective” role against COVID training losses in sub-Saharan Africa (2022, 15 February), received on 15 February 2022 from -primary-role- covid-losses-sub-saharan.html

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