COVID-19 and education: What can be done to ensure that the health crisis does not result in an educational crisis?

Author(s) Mario Steiner (Principal Investigator) Maria Köpping Gabriele Pessl Andrea Leitner
Institution(s) Institute for Advanced Studies (IHS), Vienna
Maybe further partner(s)

financed by the Vienna Science and Technology Fund (WWTF) through the COVID-19 Rapid Response Call, Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research, University of Innsbruck, Institute for Teacher-Education and School-Research

Theoretical framework/approach The study is based on the widely acknowledged assumption (following Bourdieu, Boudon, …) that the social selectivity of educational outcomes increases to the extent that it depends on private support.
Research questions
  • What impacts does COVID-19-related distance schooling have on social inequality in education?
  • What didactic-pedagogical approaches and support are necessary to counteract disadvantages despite adverse conditions?
Themes / topics
education; inequality; distance schooling; distance learning; e-learning; school closures; disadvantage
Main findings of study / highlights
  • Distance schooling threatens to increase social and regional differences in educational outcomes, the second lockdown further exacerbated pre-existing inequalities
  • Teachers’ concerns about learning losses due to school closures are particularly high regarding disadvantaged students;
  • It is likely that Corona will have an impact on educational-careers (e.g. a rising ESL-rate)
  • Lack of motivation, distractions and structuring the day are what teachers consider the biggest difficulties students face in distance schooling;
  • Distance schooling puts a strain on teachers at a personal level;
  • Cooperation among teachers and school-level support systems need to be expanded to address the challenges of distance schooling;
  • Teachers develop a variety of strategies to counteract disadvantages in distance learning – this includes the adaptation of teaching methods and contents to ensure that participation requires little to no resources and parental support on the part of students as well as targeted individual communication and support;
  • The study draws comparisons between types of schools (Mittelschulen and AHS-Unterstufe) as well as between the first and second lockdown.
Methods Mixed-Method Study
Analytic Appraoch descriptive, explanatory
Desig of data collection

The study takes into consideration the perspectives of all three groups of those primarily affected by distance schooling. The research design includes:

  • a quantitative online survey of Austrian teachers carried out in spring and autumn 2020;
  • qualitative face-to-face interviews with teachers;
  • qualitative interviews with students and parents carried out via telephone or video calls.
Time(s) of data collection May 2020 and November/December 2020 for the online surveys, July/August 2020 for the qualitative interviews with teachers and February/March 2021 for the interviews with students and teachers.
Kind of sampling, kind and number of sample

An online link to participate in the surveys was sent out to schools via several federal states’ Bildungsdirektionen and also disseminated through online platforms and other multipliers. This yielded a high number of qualified responses, namely more than 4.000 participants in May 2020 and 3.500 participants in November/December 2020. The questionnaires were directed primarily to those teaching at the level of lower secondary school (Mittelschulen and AHS-Unterstufe), but were also be completed by some teachers from other types of schools.

We conduct(ed) qualitative interviews with 14 teachers from lower secondary schools (Mittelschulen/AHS-Unterstufe) as well as a total of 10-12 students and parents from middle schools (Mittelschulen), all based in Vienna.

Geographical area Austria with a focus on the city of Vienna for the qualitative parts of the study
Project website

Further information
Repository Factsheet