Insecurity, lack of support, and frustration: A sociological analysis of how three groups of students reflect on their distance education during the pandemic in Sweden

Eur J Educ. 2021 Dec;56(4):550-563. doi: 10.1111/ejed.12477. Epub 2021 Oct 7.


This article investigates the situation of Swedish upper secondary school students who have been subject to distance education during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. We understand the transition from onsite education to distance education as a recontextualization of pedagogical practice, our framing follows loosely concepts from Bernstein. Given that the field of upper secondary education is highly socially structured it is relevant to enquire into the social dimensions of distance education. For this purpose, we have analysed answers to an open-ended question in a survey answered by 3,726 students, and related them to a cluster analysis distinguishing three main clusters of students: urban upper-middle-class, immigrant working-class, and rural working-class. The urban upper-middle-class students experienced problems decoding new requirements and were troubled by blurred boundaries between school and home. This group invests the most in schooling, and therefore expresses comparatively more anxiety for reaching anticipated achievements. Immigrant working-class students were comparatively more discontented by a lack of school support and request clearer instructions. In this new educational situation, characterized by a weak framing, they have difficulties decoding the requirements. The rural working-class students appear comparatively more disconnected from the school situation. Unlike urban upper-middle-class students, for whom the school invades the home and private sphere, the rural working-class students seldom experienced that the school intruded their home; accordingly, their studies collapsed into sleep-in-mornings and a holiday feeling.