One Year of the Corona Pandemic – our Experiences and Observations

Today we write in the month of April 2021 and look back on one year of the Corona Pandemic. In this report, we would like to reflect on the experiences and observations we have gathered while working at our Institute.

Who would have thought that after one year of the pandemic, things have not gotten much better? If you trust the statements of some researchers, this phase will continue for some time. Soberly speaking, 2021 will not be much different from 2020. Further forecasts are pure guesswork. We will have to come to terms with the conditions of this pandemic, even if we long for a return to normality. Whether it will ever return, we do not know, but post-Corona normality will probably look different.

We keep asking ourselves these questions: How will the lockdowns affect the psycho-social development of those under our charge? How will the school closures affect the children’s acquisition of written language? Will this increase the percentage of children with reading and spelling disabilities? As an educational and research institution, we face these questions because they affect our field. There is no denying that the Corona pandemic fosters mental health problems. Very likely, many children are developing learning difficulties because of the school closures. We cannot provide generalized answers to this, but we will report the snapshots of this year.

It becomes very clear that the differences between educationally advantaged and disadvantaged families are even more visible as a result of the crisis. Children in socially weaker families experience such times of crisis as more threatening and insecure than middle-class children in which both parents can work. Therefore, it can be assumed that educationally disadvantaged children may develop increased behavioral problems and significant learning regressions as a result of the lockdowns and school closures. On the other hand, families advantaged in terms of education also have to bear a significantly higher burden under the pandemic conditions. However, this can usually be well compensated for by a stable family structure. It will probably only be possible to realistically observe and evaluate the effects of the current crisis on our field in the coming years.

We are seeing early indicators that school closures are having an unfavorable impact, particularly on children with learning difficulties. Many children experience anxiety and significant learning delays in reading and writing. These differences were not as great before the Corona crisis. It is conceivable that the current crisis, with its lockdowns and school back and forth, will favor the acquisition of LRS[1]. Children with predisposed Dyslexia will also have greater problems as a result of the crisis. In summary, the longer this crisis continues, the greater the deficits will become for children with learning disabilities. In homeschooling, it is almost impossible for younger children to compensate for learning deficits in the acquisition of written language, because they lack professional school supervision. Thus, there will be an increase in Dyslexia among students.

These are our initial observations. But there are also positive developments to report, where children with clear reading problems have benefited from homeschooling. This is because they had to read and understand significantly more texts. We also saw good progress among secondary students. Some children have also benefited from individual help with learning from parents and grandparents.

A very large percentage of children clearly struggle with school lockdowns. Most of the children long for a normal school routine. Especially the back and forth between school opening and closing creates uncertainty for the children. Time and time again, we have seen children crying because they were overwhelmed with homeschooling. Parents have also told us of a significant extra burden. Of course, the situation is experienced differently in individual families. Nevertheless, policymakers should draft a clear plan on how to better organize schools under pandemic conditions.

How the situation will develop in the near future, we will continue to monitor and then report.

[1] German for reading and writing disability (Lese-Rechtschreib-Schwäche)