COVID-19 school closure has disrupted education systems globally raising concerns over learning time loss. At the same time, social isolation at home has seen a decline in happiness level among young learners. Understanding the link between cognitive effort and emotional wellbeing is important for post-pandemic learning recovery interventions particularly if there is a feedback loop from happiness to learning. In this context, we use primary survey data collected during the first school closure in urban Malaysia to study the complex association between learning loss and student happiness. Machine learning methods are used to accommodate the multi-dimensional and interaction effects between the covariates that influence this association. Empirically, we find that the most important covariates are student gender, social economic status (SES) proxied by the number of books ownership, time spent on play and religious activity. Based on the results, we develop a conceptual framework of learning continuity by formalizing the importance of investment in emotional wellbeing.

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