A scientific study carried out in Australia reveals how natural disasters negatively impact the academic performance of children in later years, impoverishing their learning.
Children who live in regions affected by natural disasters such as hurricanes or forest fires not only interrupt their schooling due to catastrophe or have post-traumatic stress, but their long-term academic results are poorer and their cognitive performance suffers, such as revealed by research carried out by the University of Melbourne, Smoldering Stump, the Swinburne University of Technology and the University of New South Wales, in Australia, whose findings have been published in the publication ‘Child Development’.
The study analyzed 24,642 children who attended primary schools in the Australian location of Victoria, affected by the ‘Black Saturday’ fires in February 2009. The researchers made a comparison between students enrolled in schools that had a high or medium impact on the fire and others who attended schools with little or no impact, tracing academic performance over a period of four years.
Academic scores on reading, writing, spelling, arithmetic, and grammar exams pertaining to the National Assessment Program were examined to assess literacy and numeracy skills through the school curriculum. The mentioned competences were measured two and four years after the fires, taking into account familiar circumstances such as language, cultural and health factors or parental educational level.
As revealed by the study, reading and arithmetic scores were reduced in schools whose students had been most impacted by the fire. In writing, spelling and grammar of the academic evaluation there were no notable differences, while there were no gender differences in the results.
One of the main conclusions of this research is that cognitive abilities related to types of learning can be affected by early experiences of trauma, a phenomenon that is also related to continuous interruptions in the home, school and community.
“Given the apparent delay in the impact of fires, it will be important that future studies on the impacts of disasters on children extend for more than three years and that academic and cognitive impacts be taken into account along with related factors. with health and social and emotional well-being,” said Jane Nursey, lead clinical consultant at Phoenix Australia – Center for Post-traumatic Mental Health at the University of Melbourne and co-author of the study.
The research hopes to “rely more on capturing the long-term impact of disasters on children’s academic performance, impacts that may not be evident the first few years after an event, and we can ensure that interventions focus on the appropriate areas to help children succeed in school and in life “, with interventions that provide social, emotional and academic support, the latter especially focused on reading and arithmetic.