Tackling inequalities at their roots: new policies for fairness in education from early age

Specific Challenge

Despite ample analysis and many recommendations, educational inequalities remain pervasive in all European education systems regarding access, treatment and outcomes. European education systems need to cater for considerable diversity and enable all citizens to succeed and develop their full potential, irrespective of their background and according to their specific learning needs. Yet, whole social groups or sub-sets of the population persistently perform less well in education. There are also wide geographic disparities in education, between and within Member States, also regarding early-childhood (pre-primary) education. Finally, many learners with disabilities and/or special educational needs are still placed in segregated institutions or in mainstream settings with inadequate support, frequently leaving school with insufficient qualifications. The role of pre-primary and primary education has been recognised as being of fundamental importance in the educational cycle, as they lay the foundations for future educational and professional attainment. However, huge disparities exist within Europe also at this level.

The goal of reducing inequality and discrimination in European education systems is particularly challenging and relevant. However, it is both more efficient and equitable to invest in education in the very stages. Correcting failure later on is inefficient in comparison. Early childhood education facilitates later learning, and can produce large socio-economic returns, especially for disadvantaged children. Moreover, innovative practices for increasing the efficiency of education systems could also play an important role for equity.


The research to address this challenge should focus on one or two dimensions that have to be comprehensively addressed. They may include additional aspects which are relevant to addressing the specific challenge and they should take stock of most recent research in the field.

1) Reducing educational disparity and disadvantage from an early age

2) The contribution of innovative forms of organisation management or professional practices in educational systems to equity and efficiency

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU in the order of EUR 5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. This does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected Impact

Education is one of the five key objectives targeted by the Europe 2020 strategy for growth essential to combat (social) inequality and social exclusion by equipping the next generation with the skills and qualifications needed to build a socially and economically strong Europe and to provide for social cohesion and democratic values. Further specific research, taking into account the recent economic, demographic and social developments in Europe, and recent advances in approaches to teaching and learning practices will contribute to the identification, transferability and up-take of effective and efficient measures to combat inequalities in education right from the early age, increase educational outcomes, promote social and inclusive innovation and foster broad cross-policies cooperation among researchers, stakeholders, practitioners and policy-makers. Research should provide knowledge, evidence and propose practical options of e-learning and pedagogical methods that will improve the educational systems across Europe. The research will advance knowledge and options for the educational system and its potential for reform in order to become more creative and cost effective.

Date de candidature
Sciences sociales
Humanités : Anthropologie & Ethnologie