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המכללה האקדמית בית ברל > English > About Us > News > Newsletter > Spring 2021 Newsletter > How Does the Pandemic Affect Children’s Literacy?

How Does the Pandemic Affect Children’s Literacy?

Dr. Yarden Kedar, Head of Early Childhood Education at Beit Berl, has received a grant to study the impact of Covid-19 on early literacy and numeracy among disadvantaged Israeli children.

Although much has been surmised about the pandemic's probable effects on children, and specifically on those considered disadvantaged, the actual consequences of Israel's lockdowns and school closures have yet to be studied in a scientific manner. Dr. Kedar will conduct the research in collaboration with colleagues from University College London (UCL) Institute of Education in London, U.K, which is funding the study.

The Israel National Council for the Child reports that about a third of Israeli children are living in poverty, with certain groups showing greater proportions than others. Specifically, around 20% of Jewish children live beneath the poverty line and roughly 70% of minority, non-Jewish children do so (such as Muslim Israeli Arabs, Bedouins, children of migrant workers and asylum seekers). 

"The early childhood years, from birth until age 6-7, have a critical impact on the rest of people's lives. These are the most important years for cognitive and emotional development," Dr. Kedar explains, adding that, "It's clear that kids from disadvantaged families who don't have their own computers and live in crowded homes have not been able to study effectively during the pandemic. This situation will in turn fuel greater inequality. We want to assess the gravity of this situation using a scientific approach."

Kedar has begun recruiting the team that will carry out the research, and expects to begin soon. The first phase involves collecting data from the Ministry of Education about the level of literacy and numeracy of young children prior to the pandemic. These data will serve as a base line for the purpose of comparing them with those of children after more than a year of Covid-19 learning conditions.

The next stage will be to conduct dozens of interviews with dozens of educators and parents in order to hear their impressions of what the children have been experiencing during the pandemic and how this has affected their education. Kedar hopes to complete this stage of the research by the end of the current school year. The final stage, which will take place next Fall, entails administering pedagogic tests and questionnaires to several hundred children. The researchers will focus on kindergartens and schools in the Tel Aviv area, including in low socio-economic neighborhoods in South Tel Aviv and in Yafo's Arab community.

Professor Li Wei, Chair of Applied Linguistics at the IOE, added: "This project idea derives from a fruitful workshop held last year in Israel in which both UCL and Beit Berl set out areas of collaboration. After our initial exploration, we aim to work on an intervention program in collaboration with the Israeli Ministry of Education. The overarching outcome of the project is to build a scientific model based on the relationships among environments, literacy and numeracy development, school interventions and pupils' attainment at times of crisis. The model will serve as a powerful tool for educators and policy makers to optimize existing financial resources and develop evidence-based individualized programs for disadvantaged children in Israel and possibly be adopted in other countries."

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