Several studies have found that COVID-19 has increased student inequality and contributed to a further decline in education in Belgium, despite the fact that education was already declining prior to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Arnaud Joskin, the study’s author and a Federal Planning Bureau expert, stated, “Based on figures at the end of the 2020-2021 school year, we conclude that pupils in their final year of secondary school are scheduled for six months.” In a typical school year, they haven’t learned even half of what they should have.”

Flemish Education Minister Ben Weyts has “always opposed collective school closures” throughout the pandemic, according to his spokesperson Miachel Devoldere, warning of the “great damage” this would cause.

Since the crisis, there has been a 60% decrease in Dutch and French learning, a 63% decrease in science courses, and a 28% decrease in mathematics. Furthermore, the delay in Belgium is greater than the 12-week learning loss observed in the Netherlands.

“The ominous data from the Planning Bureau should serve as a wake-up call to everyone: we need to be far more cautious with the weapon of collective school closure,” he added. “Even in the long run, this has far-reaching consequences.”

Schools, according to Devoldere, have been “working hard for many months to mitigate learning delays to the greatest extent possible.” This includes programmes like the ‘Bijsprong’ scheme, which provides extra funding to schools, primarily to help students who are falling behind, but also to summer schools.

While data on learning delays in the Francophone community is scarce, the Planning Bureau predicts a further drop in educational attainment. “There, average education levels are lower, implying that the Covid-19 crisis had a greater impact on students with lower school results.”

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