Swedish Researchers: Reading Skills of Primary School Students Didn’t Deteriorate — May Have Slightly Improved — During Coronavirus Pandemic

Anthony LaMesa
4 min readSep 26, 2021

Sweden’s decision to keep primary schools open may be the reason behind the reassuring data.

While many students across the United States have suffered catastrophic learning loss during the coronavirus pandemic, new research from Sweden — a country that controversially never closed its primary or lower secondary schools — suggests young Swedes have fared quite a bit better.

Researchers from Linnaeus University and Karolinska Institutet analyzed 145,000 literacy tests from before and during the pandemic and found “no corona effect” on the literacy skills of the primary school students tested. Indeed, their findings suggest that students may have even performed “slightly higher” on literacy tests during the pandemic than before.

Result: No “corona effect” could be seen. The students in grades 1, 2 and 3 performed at the same level during the pandemic as before. In fact, the mean values ​​during the pandemic were even slightly higher, but the researchers point out that the difference is small.

According to one of the researchers, their findings were a “positive surprise” and seem to confirm that officials were right not to close primary schools in March 2020.

“It could have been assumed that the teaching would have been negatively affected to some extent, so the result was a positive surprise,” says Associate Professor Linda Fälth at Linnaeus University’s Department of Pedagogy and Learning.

“From what we now see, it seems to be a sustainable strategy to refrain from a general shutdown in primary school,” says Linda Fälth.

Sweden’s experience contrasts not just with the United States, which kept its schools closed longer than any other high-income country, but also with other European countries, such as the Netherlands. The Dutch had relatively brief school closures — for about two months in spring 2020 and around the holidays in winter 2020 — but researchers still believe learning loss occurred.

In an interview from last September, Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s state epidemiologist and an ardent critic of so-called lockdowns, said concerns about the potential impact of school closures on the life prospects of children led…



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