Parental trust in the Finnish basic education system during the COVID-19 pandemic

Tommi Wallenius, Satu Koivuhovi, Mari-Pauliina Vainikainen, Education in the North

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The COVID-19 pandemic in Finland rapidly changed many of the established practices in Finnish schooling. Normal teaching was replaced by distance learning and many daily routines (grouping, school meals etc.) were ordered to be organised following new safety instructions. In this study, we examined how pupils’ parents in Finland have experienced the exceptional schooling practices caused by the pandemic and how their experiences and views relate to parental trust in the Finnish basic education system. The study included three research tasks: 1) to study the school-level variation in parents’ experiences of pandemic-time schooling; 2) to compare parents’ views on the schools’ safety instructions with teachers’ views; and 3) to study how parents’ experiences and views were related to trust factors in the Finnish basic education system.
Our data is based on a nationwide research project, which examines the effects of the pandemic on schooling, teaching, learning and wellbeing in Finland. For this study, we utilised data from both the parental questionnaire (N=30,572) and the teacher questionnaire (N=5,797) collected in November 2020. Data were analysed with multilevel structural equation models (MSEM) conducted in the Mplus environment. Our results showed that in general the pupils’ parents were satisfied with pandemic-time schooling. The variance in parents’ views was even surprisingly small, especially when thinking of the notable differences in the schools’ readiness to organise distance learning (Vainikainen et al., forthcoming). Interestingly, the teachers evaluated the adherence to the schools’ safety instructions more critically than pupils’ parents did. As expected, positive experiences on pandemic-time schooling predicted a higher level of trust in the basic education system – especially when the parents reported that the teachers were available for their child, communicated about their child’s progress and organised distance learning with real-time interaction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-203
Number of pages22
JournalEducation in the North
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Acknowledgements and funding
We kindly thank the anonymous reviewers for their attentive notions and suggestions for improving the original manuscript.


  • institutional trust
  • pupils’ parents
  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • Finnish basic education system


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