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Large learning gaps among students due to the corona pandemic – SWR Wissen

According to a new survey by the Robert Bosch Foundation, teachers at German schools see significant learning deficits and a sharp increase in psychosocial problems among children and adolescents.















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In order to record how German schools are dealing with the consequences of long school closings, the Robert Bosch Foundation commissioned a representative survey among teachers in September 2021. The German “School Barometer – Pandemic Special”.

Students at hotspot schools have the most catching up to do

The most important finding: significantly fewer children and young people than before the pandemic were able to achieve their learning goals – this is what the teachers report in the current survey. On average, they see severe learning deficits in every third student.

Some types of schools have been hit harder than others. The high schools managed to cope best with the consequences of the school closings – here most of the students also had the necessary resources such as their own computers and rooms, access to the network, supportive parents – and the schools themselves in many places already had relatively good conditions as far as the equipment is concerned.


During school closings, pupils from grammar schools usually had better technical options for distance learning than those in other types of schools.


imago images



imago images / Jochen Tack


Even so, the teachers at these schools also say that there are many learning gaps. The situation in primary schools is more difficult. Distance learning was very difficult to implement with the little ones. There is still a lot of catching up to do here. The situation is similar to that at the special schools, even there hardly any distance learning was possible.

And the situation at the flashpoint schools, i.e. schools in socially disadvantaged locations, seems really bad. In terms of technical equipment and teaching staff, they were and are still the worst prepared for a possible further corona wave and their students are already suffering from the greatest learning deficits.



After a year and a half of a pandemic, there are large educational gaps, especially in schools with a focus on hot spots.  (Photo: imago images, imago images / Michael Gstettenbauer)

After a year and a half of a pandemic, there are large educational gaps, especially in schools with a focus on hot spots.


imago images



imago images/Michael Gstettenbauer


School closings increase social inequality

80 percent of teachers say that the school closings have further increased social inequality. When asked how the attempt is now being made to catch up on the learning arrears, three-quarters of the teachers stated that the learning arrears should be compensated for in ongoing lessons – through differentiation. That means the weaker ones get easier tasks, the stronger ones more complicated ones.

Only 40 percent of teachers say there are additional lessons to support students with particularly large learning gaps. But children and young people have not only accumulated learning deficits due to the school closings, they have also often suffered psychologically and socially.



Many students also suffered psychologically from the consequences of the pandemic restrictions.  (Photo: imago images, imago images / MiS)

Many students also suffered psychologically from the consequences of the pandemic restrictions.


imago images



imago images/MiS


School closings had far-reaching psychological consequences

The decline in social relationships, increased loneliness but also heavy stress in the family, all of this has left its mark. The vast majority of teachers report problems with their students’ motivation and concentration. In addition, there is often withdrawnness and depression among their students.

A quarter of teachers report that truancy and aggressive behavior have increased significantly. This is above all a problem at secondary schools, secondary schools and comprehensive schools and especially at focal schools. But so far there are hardly any additional offers in schools, for example by school psychologists or school social workers. About a third of the teachers even say that there are currently no such support offers at their school, but that is probably still due to the Corona restrictions.



Digital lessons are not equally suitable for all children and adolescents.  (Photo: imago images, imago images / MiS)

Digital lessons are not equally suitable for all children and adolescents.


imago images



imago images/MiS


Concepts for good distance learning are still missing

The majority of teachers think it is far more important to deal with the social and psychological consequences of the pandemic first. Above all, they rely on their relationship with the students. Closing the learning gaps comes second. The teachers also hope that there will be no further school closings.

95 percent of the teachers are vaccinated

According to the survey, 95 percent of teachers have already been vaccinated and the vast majority want to teach face-to-face even when the number of infections increases. However, only around half of all schools are really prepared and equipped for further distance learning. The others still lack a binding concept for distance learning. And almost 60 percent of all schools apparently still do not have the necessary technical equipment – at least according to the teachers’ statements.



There is often no binding concept for distance learning.  (Photo: imago images, imago images / MiS)

There is often no binding concept for distance learning.


imago images



imago images/MiS


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