There’s no evidence that Sweden’s youngest schoolchildren, who have never had to miss a single day in school because of the COVID pandemic, suffered any drop in their reading skills, a new study suggests.
When the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus first hit Sweden, the country’s public health authorities made it clear that daycare centers and primary schools, which serve students in grades 1 through 3, must stay open. Swedish government held on to that policy even after its COVID-19 death rates surpassed those of its Nordic neighbors.
Throughout much of the pandemic, Sweden’s response relied heavily on voluntary cooperation. Instead of imposing face covering and social distancing mandates on schools, it only recommended teachers and students to stay at home if they felt any symptoms of illness.
In a study published in the International Journal of Educational Research, a team of researchers at Stockholm’s Karolinska University analyzed data from 97,073 primary school students across Sweden. The goal was to investigate whether Swedish children suffered any potential learning loss during the 2020-2021 school year.
There is no official national data on student progress in reading during the pandemic because the Swedish government canceled its national tests in 3rd-grade reading and math in 2020, and didn’t require schools to report those test scores in 2021. This prompted the researchers to base their study on data collected from LegiLexi, a popular free-to-use online tool that allows primary school students to test their language skills.
The researchers compared average LegiLexi test scores from the four school years from 2017–2018 to 2020–2021 in two aspects: word decoding and reading comprehension. The result shows that test-takers in the 2020–2021 “pandemic year” performed just as well as those in previous school years in both areas of language.
“We conclude that there is no evidence of a learning loss regarding early reading skills in Swedish primary school students,” the researchers wrote.
This of course doesn’t mean that the CCP virus pandemic didn’t at all negatively affect the reading ability of any individual Swedish child, the researchers noted. But overall, Swedish primary school students’ reading skills did stay at a stable level throughout the pandemic.
“In the light of international studies on reading skills in younger students during the pandemic, we conclude that the decision to keep schools open benefited Swedish primary school students,” they added.
The finding comes amid numerous reports on loss of literacy skills among American children in the aftermath of pandemic lockdowns and widespread school closures.
According to a report (pdf) publish this February by curriculum and testing company Amplify, the percentage of students at highest risk for not learning to read jumped by 8 percent during the pandemic, from 29 percent in the 2019–2020 school year to 37 percent in the 2021–22 school year.
Another study (pdf), conducted by the University of Virginia, found that about 35 percent of Virginia’s children in kindergarten through 2nd grade scored below their expected levels of literacy in the fall of 2021.
“Especially alarming, overall K-2 Fall 2021 scores indicate the highest percentage of students scoring below benchmark at grade-level entry ever observed at the fall assessment,” the study warned.