Lucet's Prof Antoine Fischbach is pictured speaking at the televised press conference on Thursday 22 April. Photo: Screenshot
Homeschooling of students and pupils in Luxembourg resulted in a decline in German listening comprehension at Grade 3, while existing learning gaps across the years were exacerbated.
These were among the findings of Luxembourg’s school monitoring programme, the Epreuves Standardisées (EpStan), which examined data from over 25,000 learners and included questionnaires with over 15,000 parents.
Presented on Thursday by Prof Antoine Fischbach, director of the Luxembourg Centre for Educational Testing (Lucet), the findings were generally positive.
Overall students and parents coped well, even if they did not enjoy the experience, infrastructure was generally not an isue as a result of the education's ministry's past strategy to distribute iPads to learners. Prof Fischbach said that teachers adapted contact time and methods to the needs of learners and there was no systematic negative trend in competency scores at primary, with one exception.
The big surprise was that in Grade 3 (ages 8-9), regardless of socio-economic background or whether the young person spoke Luxembourgish at home, third graders’ competency in German listening comprehension worsened substantially.
“In comparison, students from socio-economically disadvantaged households and/or students that do not speak Luxembourgish/German at home did worse in German reading comprehension than their peers from socio-economically advantaged households and/or speaking Luxembourgish/German at home,” the report found.
At secondary, regardless of set, Grade 9 students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds generally performed worse than their socio-economically advantaged peers and particularly so in German reading comprehension.
“The virus attacks vulnerabilities and weak spots; in general and in the school system. Our education system has been struggling for decades with the adequate handling of increasingly diverse student populations. The covid-19 pandemic has intensified this situation, as students who are already statistically at risk have been hit hardest,” said Fischbach.
The data shared on Thursday was not broken down by school, however, Fischbach explained that specific school data has been shared with the schools concerned.
The report stressed the importance of promoting German listening comprehension and oral competences at primary as early as possible, and differentiated supported for students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, students that do not speak at least one language of instruction at home and students allocated to lower secondary school tracks should receive more differentiated support.
Responding, education minister Claude Meisch (DP) praised the work of all who contributed to the education of children and young adults so far. In addition to parents and regular teachers, he said that a further 428 people had been hired to assist in switching to homeschooling and a hybrid teaching model.
To bridge the learning gaps, Meisch said that his ministry was organising a summer school for the 2021 summer break, similar to the one held in 2020, focusing on French, German and maths. Where possible, priority will be given to physical attendance until the summer break, in particular to tackle the losses in German skills.
“This is an intermediary report. We're still in the pandemic, we have hybrid learning and when learners fall ill, they have to stay at home. It's clear, this will all leave a mark,” Meisch said, adding that the duration of the pandemic was a major challenge for all stakeholders in the education sector.
The tests were carried out in November 2020, eight months after the outbreak of the pandemic and introduction of homeschooling in Luxembourg.