IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


New project examines how COVID-19 impacts literacy and numeracy for disadvantaged pupils in Israel

5 March 2021

Researchers at UCL Institute of Education (IOE) and Beit Berl College in Israel have obtained funding to assess the impact of COVID-19 on early literacy and numeracy amongst disadvantaged pupils in Israel.

Group of school children in Israel. Image: Viktor Karppinen (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The funds are part of the UCL Global Engagement Strategy that aims to increase the institution's global impact and establish partnerships in other countries.

The Israel National Council for the Child (2017) 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). 

Dr Roberto Filippi, Director of the Multilanguage & Cognition lab at the IOE and project lead, said: “Literacy and numeracy skills are crucial for the social and cognitive development of children and predictors of future academic and professional success. As the COVID-19 crisis continues, there is growing concern that disadvantaged pupils may be disproportionately impacted by school closures, temporary restrictions, reduced and disrupted access to online resources and lack of parental engagement. Although this crisis is affecting all countries, we found that the situation in Israel is particularly critical. In a recent survey almost 75% of disadvantaged Israeli families reported that they are unable to provide their children the required textbooks, computers, school meals, and school fees."

Dr Yarden Kedar, Head of Early Childhood Education at Beit Berl College in Israel said: “Because of Covid-19, this situation will in turn fuel greater inequality and potentially be the cause of more conflict in the region. We want to assess the gravity of this situation using a scientific approach. In the next 6 months we will collect valuable data on the education and cognitive development of young children before and during pandemic, alongside qualitative data such as life experience, parental engagement and evaluation of school intervention methods. We will target in particular children aged 5 and 6 years old from different ethnic and religious groups attending primary schools in the Tel-Aviv region.”

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 programme in collaboration with the Israeli Ministry of Education. The overarching outcome of the project is to build up 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 optimise existing financial resources and develop evidence-based individualised programmes for disadvantaged children in Israel and possibly be adopted in other countries.”



Viktor Karppinen via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)