COVID-19’s impact on learning losses and learning inequality in Colombia

Autor(es): Vegas, Emiliana

Organisation(s): Brookings Institution (USA). Center for Universal Education

Date: 2022

Pages: 11 p.


In this brief, I focus on Colombia, which, like most countries globally, closed its schools in March of 2020. As throughout most of Latin America, Colombian schools remained closed for over a year, and they only began to gradually reopen in July 2021. I explore the pandemic’s impact on student learning by analyzing trends in student achievement in national assessments from 2015 to 2019 and comparing them with student achievement in the same national assessments carried out in 2020 and 2021. I also explore the extent to which students in subnational territories (ETCs) - the equivalent to U.S. states, except some are certified by the national government to have more autonomy in spending than others - with different lengths of school closure periods experienced varying levels of learning losses. My findings indicate that COVID-19 had a significant impact on student learning in Colombia. The effects were greatest for female students and students from wealthier backgrounds, a surprising finding given that studies from other countries have found that students from socioeconomically disadvantaged households suffered larger learning losses than their peers from wealthier households. A plausible explanation is that in Colombia students from wealthier backgrounds tend to attend better schools. I also find that learning losses due to COVID-19 were lower in ETCs that provided access to in-person schooling sooner.    

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