“Wearing a mask in elementary school hinders children’s learning”

JThursday, October 29, the Minister of National Education, Youth and Sports, Jean-Michel Blanquer, announced at a press conference that“Currently, at the time of the school holidays, there were twenty-seven closed structures out of the 21,500 in the country, that is to say 0.04%” ; what “The number of Covid cases over the last seven days was 8,223 students, remember that there are 12,400,000 students in our country, or 0.07%” and “The school is therefore in reality a secure space”.

Based on these data, the minister then announced: “The mask becomes mandatory for all students from the preparatory course so that these students and their teachers protect themselves as much as possible from any risk of possible contagiousness even if we know that the contagiousness of small children towards adults is, it seems. low ».

Without denying the current health reasons, as psychologists specializing in neuropsychology, we question the impact of such a measure on the cognitive and cerebral development of the child. From a theoretical point of view, managing a mask entails an additional constraint drawing on limited attentional resources. Maintaining attention, being deprived of half of the facial information and having access only to a filtered voice, also requires tapping into these limited attentional resources. For a child, expressing himself through a mask is also an additional constraint on getting involved and participating in class life.

Deprived of lip movement

According to Stanislas Dehaene, neuroscientist and professor at the Collège de France, president of the Scientific Council for National Education (CSEN), neurosciences have identified at least four determining factors in the speed and ease of learning: attention, active engagement, feedback and consolidation (L’Express, 2018).

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From a theoretical point of view, wearing a mask in children would therefore impact these first two pillars: attention and commitment. Attentional and engagement functions are strongly linked to the prefrontal cortex (front part of the brain) which matures throughout child and adolescent development based on physiological factors and environmental stimuli. What impact can the constraint of wearing a mask have on this maturation?

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