The coronavirus pandemic and education from a gender equality perspective

The Swedish Gender Equality Agency presents its comments on what the coronavirus pandemic and the measures taken mean for gender equality, based on the knowledge we have at this time. Here you can read about the impact on education.

See the Swedish Gender Equality Agency’s collected information on the coronavirus pandemic here.

In Sweden, the coronavirus pandemic has prompted upper secondary schools and higher education to switch to distance learning, and it is possible that the government could decide to close preschools, primary schools and secondary schools. There is a risk that this might affect educational quality and put boys in particular at a disadvantage. Girls may also be negatively affected, since their levels of mental ill-health are higher than among boys of the same age.

Students’ home circumstances vary greatly and with increased mental stress and anxiety among students and their parents/guardians, there is a distinct risk of rising mental ill-health. Systematic student health work becomes vital in this situation.

Under the gender equality policy’s goal on equal education, women and men, girls and boys must have the same opportunities and conditions with regard to education, study options and personal development.

– We know that the quality of the schooling plays a part in gender differences regarding academic attainment, and that poor-quality schooling particularly disadvantages boys, says Jakob Lindahl, who is a senior analyst at the Swedish Gender Equality Agency.

Students’ home circumstances vary greatly and with increased mental stress and anxiety among students and their parents/guardians, there is a distinct risk of rising mental ill-health.

Little research has been conducted into the type of distance learning that is happening at this time and how the situation is affecting the quality of the schooling. However, if distance learning becomes a long-term reality, the quality of the schooling may be negatively affected, to the detriment of those students who require special support. Statistics from the Swedish National Agency for Education show that boys are more likely than girls to be involved in various support initiatives.

– Based on what we know about the importance of the quality of the schooling when it comes to gender differences in school results, there is a risk that if distance learning continues over the long term – and is of poorer quality than traditional education – boys as a group may be disadvantaged. However, this cannot be said with any certainty, since this is a unique situation, says Jakob Lindahl.

It can be difficult to run the practical vocational courses at upper secondary school as distance learning for any prolonged period of time. The vocational courses are often strongly gendered and can therefore affect girls and boys in different ways.

It is also important to acknowledge the student health work at upper secondary schools and at the primary and secondary schools that remain open. We already know that teenage girls are more likely than boys to report mental ill-health, although an increase is being seen among girls and boys alike. We also know that young LGBTQ people as a group have poorer mental health than other young people, since they suffer more discrimination, threats and violence. Psychosomatic symptoms are more common among students who say they feel stressed about their schoolwork, and student health has an important function in countering this.

– Students’ home circumstances vary greatly and with increased mental stress and anxiety among students and their parents/guardians, there is a distinct risk of rising mental ill-health. Systematic student health work becomes vital in this situation, says Jakob Lindahl.

Last updated: 9:32 - 13 May, 2020
  • Gender equality
  • Education