Ensuring equitable opportunities for socioeconomically disadvantaged students in Italy and Austria during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic: A qualitative analysis of educational policy documents


  • Barbara Gross
  • Denis Francesconi
  • Evi Agostini




equitable educational opportunities, qualitative content analysis, critical pedagogy, educational policy, COVID-19


The coronavirus pandemic has revealed the limitations of current social structures, with school closures exposing marginalized population groups to further threats and disadvantages. During the first wave of the pandemic, schools needed to pay special attention to the most vulnerable and marginalized pupils to counteract growing social and educational inequity. Against the background of the differing educational governance and emergency management in the neighbouring countries of Italy and Austria during the first wave of the pandemic, this paper investigates how policy initiatives and regulations helped to tackle inequities in schools between February and August 2020. The aim of this analysis is to understand the differences between the educational policy measures adopted by Italy and Austria in order to be better prepared for future crises and to work toward more equitable education systems. Educational policy documents were subjected to qualitative content analysis and discussed using the lens of critical pedagogy. The results illustrate the extent to which educational policy documents supported students from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds and culturally and linguistically diverse learners during the first wave of the pandemic. The data show the different dynamics of systems’ responses to the pandemic: while in Italy there was a stronger focus on digitalization as a means of ensuring equity of educational opportunities, for example, Austria put more emphasis on supporting children with diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds.


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How to Cite

Gross, B., Francesconi, D., & Agostini, E. (2021). Ensuring equitable opportunities for socioeconomically disadvantaged students in Italy and Austria during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic: A qualitative analysis of educational policy documents. ITALIAN JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, (27), 027–039. https://doi.org/10.7346/sird-022021-p27