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Why do we know little about learning loss in Italy? A paper by Andrea Gavosto and Barbara Romano

Lagging somewhat behind other countries, Italy has been wondering what and how much students have lost – in terms of learning, skills and socialisation – during the long lockdown in spring 2020 and the 2020-2021 school year, when Covid-19 caused new “hiccups” in schedules and in-class activities were interrupted, often according to different rules depending on the school level and Region.

The issue in Italy may have been severe and widespread across all students, although it has not affected all individuals in the same way. These are the conclusions of a growing number of studies measuring the learning loss that the pandemic has determined at every school level in many European countries and in the rest of the world. The most rigorous studies (conducted in countries as diverse as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the United States) point to alarming results that are cause for worry in Italy as well: there is no reason, indeed, to assume things have been any better here.

But why do we know little to nothing about learning loss in Italy? The reason is no standardised Invalsi tests were conducted in 2020, in any school, to assess educational levels. These tests would have been the only tool in place to understand what was happening. Giving up on them and leaving the Italian school system without this essential diagnostic tool was a critical decision made by our previous government.

The new Minister of Public Education, Patrizio Bianchi, has decided Invalsi testing will be carried out this spring at all school levels except for grade 10. Indeed, having the results of these Invalsi tests at all school levels is a requirement to finally measure how serious and widespread the learning losses caused by the pandemic are in Italy. In turn, being aware of the extent of the problem is necessary to decide which actions should be put in place to recover, in the next months and years.

Andrea Gavosto and Barbara Romano have recently published a paper analysing the issue in depth, now available for download.

Gavosto A., Romano B. (2021), The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on italian schools and universities: the challenge of distance learning, in Bellettini G., Goldstein A. “The Italian Economy after Covid-19”, Bononia University Press