Published: April 30, 2020


The Life Course Centre is leveraging our global network of research leaders to provide international perspectives on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on social and economic disadvantage.

Here, our Partner Investigator Associate Professor Orla Doyle examines the potential widening of educational inequalities in Ireland. Orla is an Associate Professor at the School of Economics at University College Dublin (UCD), a Research Fellow at the UCD Geary Institute for Public Policy, and Director of the UCD Childhood and Human Development (CHilD) Research Centre.

In April, she published a paper for PublicPolicy.ie, the Geary Institute’s online platform for informing and debating public policy in Ireland. The paper, titled ‘COVID-19: Exacerbating Educational Inequalities?’, explores schooling and home-schooling in Ireland during COVID-19, the potential widening of educational inequalities, long term implications and possible solutions.

While the paper states that the educational implications of COVID-19, if any, may not be evident for some time, it utilises survey data collected in early April to test for differential levels of home schooling across social groups. The paper finds that Irish parents with both higher and lower levels of education are typically spending between 1-2 hours per day home schooling their children. The majority of parents are receiving some type of communication and/or resources from their child’s school. However, families with lower level of parental education are receiving less resources – both physical resources such as textbooks and virtual resources such as educational apps.

Use and Availability of Educational Resources by Parent’s Educational Level

To ensure that COVID-19 does not further exacerbate educational inequalities, the paper highlights the importance of having resources in place to support all families, particularly those with children in disadvantaged schools. While government departments in Ireland have already initiated the delivery of food parcels to the homes of children who avail of the school meals programme, similar initiatives targeting educational outcomes may also be required. One simple and feasible initiative would be to include workbook and educational activities along with food parcels to ensure that children without access to online resources can engage with educational materials on a regular basis.

“Parenting is hard, and in the current COVID-19 environment, it has become even harder. While the basic nutritional and mental health needs of the most vulnerable children in society should be prioritised at this time, with prolonged school closures, our attention should next turn to minimising further educational inequalities”, the paper concludes.

You can read Orla’s full paper, ‘COVID-19: Exacerbating Educational Inequalities?’, here.

Orla also recently appeared on the ‘The Irish Economics Podcast’ where she discussed COVID-19 and educational inequalities. You can listen here.