Researchers investigate the impact of the COVID-19 exceptional circumstances on schooling and student well-being in Finland

Launched in May as a collaboration between the University of Helsinki and Tampere University, the study examines how schooling, teaching and well-being have been affected by the exceptional circumstances that were introduced in Finland due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Data were collected through surveys that were distributed to basic education school teachers and other staff, students and their parents or guardians.

As a result of the exceptional situation caused by the coronavirus, Finnish basic education schools quickly switched to distance education. Now, researchers aim to find out how teaching has been organised under the exceptional circumstances in order to support the development of the practices of education organizers and schools.

An overall picture of the effects of exceptional circumstances on education

The nationwide study examines how the COVID-19 situation has affected children's education, the work of all those involved in school-related activities and the well-being of families. The aims of the study are to provide an overall picture of the impact of exceptional circumstances on school attendance and to collect information in preparation for the next school year.

“From the perspective of teachers' work, we are looking at the collective practices in schools: how teachers work was supported by principals and other teachers. Further, we are interested in knowing what kind of lessons for the future can be learned from this exceptional spring semester,” explain Professor Risto Hotulainen and Postdoctoral Researcher Raisa Ahtiainen from the Centre for Educational Assessment at the University of Helsinki.

“The Finnish school system is strongly based on the principle of equality in education. However, achieving equality in education during exceptional circumstances has not been self-evident. For example, teaching arrangements and availability of digital devices used for learning (e.g. personal laptops) have varied from school to school, so some arrangements have required more work and financial resources from families,” states Mari-Pauliina Vainikainen, Associate Professor, leader of the Research Group for Education, Assessment and Learning at Tampere University.

“The implementation of support for learning and schooling during exceptional periods and the variety of assessment practices are also examined as key equality issues in the study,” Vainikainen continues.

 “Well-being and learning are inextricably linked. In the study, we find out details about the students' distance school days, such as eating a warm meal and sleeping,” says Professor Arja Rimpelä from the Research Group on Children’s and Adolescents’ Health Promotion at Tampere University.

“With regards to parents, we want to find out how schooling under the exceptional circumstances has burdened them. From the perspective of the school staff, we look at the workload and the recovery from that work during the COVID-19 situation,” Rimpelä continues.

Survey for staff, students and parents

Data were collected in May through electronic surveys that were distributed to the rectors of all Finnish basic education schools, teachers, members of student welfare services and other people working with students in the schools, 4th to 10th grade students and parents or guardians of the 1st to 10th grade students. The school situation will continue to be monitored during the 2020‒2021 school year.

The study is carried out in collaboration with the Research Group for Education, Assessment and Learning (REAL, Tampere University), the Research Group on Children’s and Adolescents’ Health Promotion (NEDIS, Tampere University) and the Centre for Educational Assessment (CEA, University of Helsinki). The research is funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture.



Professor Risto Hotulainen
Centre for Educational Assessment (University of Helsinki)
+358 50 520 1664

Postdoctoral researcher Raisa Ahtiainen
Centre for Educational Assessment (University of Helsinki)
+358 50 318 2186

Associate Professor Mari-Pauliina Vainikainen
Research Group for Education, Assessment, and Learning (Tampere University)
+358 50 437 7303

Professor Arja Rimpelä
Research Group on Children’s and Adolescents’ Health Promotion (Tampere University)
+358 50 569 82 85