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Equal Educational Opportunities for All: New EU Project PIONEERED Kicks Off Activities

A good education provides access to the labour market, offers the chance of political participation and improves overall well-being, health and life expectancy. However, educational inequalities – i. e. disadvantages in access to and uptake of education – remain deeply ingrained into European education systems. The new research project PIONEERED strives to promote educational equality in Europe by providing research-informed policy recommendations and identifying pioneering policies and practices to enhance access to, uptake and completion of education. Over the next four years, PIONEERED will receive 3.5 Mio € in funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme.

Equal education systems play a significant role in making societies more inclusive and accessible to all. A profound reduction in educational inequalities would raise the educational levels of individuals belonging to disadvantaged groups and society as a whole. Therefore, taking steps to increase educational equality is crucial for improving individual life chances and the overall socio-economic and political sustainability of Europe. However, factors such as social background, gender, disability, or immigration history still continue to influence achievement at different education stages.

To address these educational disparities, PIONEERED will focus on formal and informal educational settings (e. g. learning processes within families, clubs, communities). The project’s innovative approach combines analyses at different levels: from policies to institutions and individual students, teachers and parents. Particular focus will be placed on the specific (dis-) advantages at intersecting axes of inequality (e. g. male migrant working-class students), as educational inequalities are particularly pronounced at such intersections. Additionally, research will be focused on scrutinising student trajectories to formulate innovative and (empirically) efficient tools to tackle educational inequalities.

Education Is the Major Determinant of Life Chances

“One of the project’s unique attributes is that we will be studying all education stages from early childhood education and care to tertiary education. Educational inequalities develop through complex dynamics between contextual and individual factors throughout someone’s life. Indeed, individual differences in the uptake of education are hardly explained by a learner’s talent and effort only, but are structured by characteristics, such as gender, social and ethnic background, and their interplay.”, explains project coordinator Andreas Hadjar, professor in Sociology of Education at the University of Luxembourg. “Our findings can help to shape the future of educational systems and societies in Europe – to make them more inclusive, more innovative and reflective.”

PIONEERED will thus contribute to a general reversal of inequality trends in post-industrial European societies, where education is a major determinant of life chances.

Tackling Educational Inequality Through Pioneering Policy Measures

Aiming to provide policy and practice recommendations to counteract educational disparities at different stages of education successfully, the multi-method project will:

  • Develop an innovative methodological framework by reviewing the current state of research
  • Analyse how national (or regional) policies address inequalities and vulnerable groups
  • Examine data to identify intersectional inequalities throughout educational careers
  • Conduct practical research in (in-) formal educational settings

Developing a Credible ‘Pathway to Impact’

Thirteen multidisciplinary partners from nine European countries will form the project consortium, involving research facilities across the entire spectrum of educational equality in Europe – from the more inequality-prone countries of Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg and Switzerland to the less inequality-prone countries of Finland, Norway, Lithuania, Ireland and Spain.

Eurice leads project activities on communication, dissemination and stakeholder engagement which is mainly about developing a credible ‘pathway to impact’. Essential practices, policies and new methodologies generated and validated within the project, which can be scalable and replicable, will be made available for interested stakeholders through a freely accessible online platform. A sustainability plan will ensure long-term operation beyond the project duration. The project will officially kick off its activities with a first virtual meeting on 24 March 2021.

For more information on the project, please visit

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