Nationwide Parent Survey: "Schools During the Third Lockdown"

In cooperation with the Lower Austrian Parents' Association, the Johannes Kepler University conducted a study focusing on parents and students during the third lockdown in January and February 2021. Representative for Austria, the study provides a number of key findings in regard to the challenges brought about by remote learning.

Professor Christoph Helm
Professor Christoph Helm

It is no secret that during the lockdown periods, parents and students faced countless challenges, including helping children with school work, dual workloads, and ongoing uncertainty with regard to planning. The Department of Educational Research at the JKU’s School of Education is presenting an initial study containing detailed analyses from the viewpoint of those most affected. 

The parent survey is representative for Austria and focuses on various aspects, including childcare, the strain on families, children's (learning) activities, successful learning, motivation, the children’s ability to independently when learning remotely, the quality of remote learning, the challenges from the parents' perspective, and satisfaction with the educational policies implemented during the pandemic (including a standpoint in regard to grading and support measures). Parents (n= 3,450) of school-age children between the ages of six and twenty were surveyed.

Christoph Helm, head of the Department of Educational Research at the JKU, remarked: "We wanted to get a picture of the affected families’ overall situation and how things have changed compared to the first lockdown. In addition to questions about remote learning and how well students were able to learn, we wanted to know more about the psychosocial effects and parents’ thoughts about the educational policies." 

Pushed to the Limit and Lower Learning Success
Approximately half of the parents surveyed indicated they have been pushed to the limit; there is hardly any time left for themselves, and new school closures have been a source of major psychological strain. Approximately 4 out of 10 parents argue with their children more often than usual. During the lockdown period schools were closed, a third of the children said they felt overwhelmed and stressed.

According to parents, the number of hours children spent each day attending school and studying during the third lockdown declined from approximately eight hours before the lockdown to approximately six hours. In comparison, the two-hour time difference is significantly lower than indicated in a comparative study conducted in Germany on the first lockdown (a four-hour time difference). The reason is significantly more learning time is invested at home as well as childcare options available at the schools. For example, 3 out of 10 parents indicated that during the school lockdown, their children spent more than 3 hours a day at school. In addition, a quarter of parents surveyed indicated that during the third lockdown they sought childcare outside of their respective household. 6 out of 10 parents agreed with the statement that their child learned significantly less during the January 2021 school lockdown than during normal classes held before the pandemic.

Independent Learning is Challenging
One-quarter of parents rated the quality of remote learning as high during the January school closures; nearly one in three rated it low.
Two-thirds of the parents reported using digital learning platforms to convey learning material, making learning platforms the most commonly used tool and replacing conventional information methods, such as e-mail, which only 4 in 10 parents reported using.
4% of the parents surveyed indicated that in regard to the learning environment, the quality (technical equipment) was insufficient. In addition, just under 4 out of 10 parents indicated during the course of remote learning and online teaching, the children experienced a wide array of various problems.
8 out of 10 children indicated that during the lockdown, the lack of social interaction was a major challenge. Over half of the children indicated that independent learning in particular was very difficult. Half of the parents surveyed considered their children’s learning support and the lack of time to help to be extremely challenging.

The indicated proportions are more pronounced to the disadvantage of parents who have low-performing children. In contrast and in most cases, there was only a slight variation in responses by parents who have a college education and those who do not.

“Average” School Grade for the (Educational) Policies
Whereas approximately one-third of parents consider school closures to be the right thing to do in order to combat the pandemic, over half of parents refuted the idea.
About 8 out of 10 parents are in favor of supplementary lessons as well as supplementary hours in school subjects in an effort to catch up on missed educational content. A good half of the parents surveyed would agree to supplementary hours. On the other hand, approximately one in three parents would take advantage of learning support offered during the vacation period, which would amount to just over 250,000 students. 7 out of 10 parents consider two hours of supplementary lessons per week to be sufficient; 3 out of 10 believe this amount is insufficient.
4 out of 10 parents are in favor of shortening the summer vacation. Half of the parents who advocate this idea would be in favor of reducing the vacation period by 2 or 3 weeks.
Approximately 8 out of 10 parents are in favor of providing students from poorer households with free laptops so these students also have the necessary technical equipment.

In general, parents gave the (educational) policies associated with closing schools only a “passing” grade.

JKU Univ. Prof Helm added: "The findings indicate that closing schools has affected almost every area of parents' and students' lives. Educational policies and ‘the school of tomorrow’ have to prepare parents and students significantly better to deal with school closures, especially as we have already had to close schools several times now. This requires opening education up to a teaching-learning format that focuses on supporting students' independence and being able to work independently - and it requires policies to support and strengthen the relationship between the school and parents. This would include providing parents with ways to help support children who are learning remotely from home. Research in education has summarized a few concepts here. In conclusion, the coronavirus pandemic has clearly shown that measures are ultimately needed in order to reduce educational inequality, such as providing more childcare options at the kindergarten level and support personnel at schools, as well as the shifting the choice of educational paths back, and desegregation measures."

See the Study, opens a file (PDF)