Issues and Objectives

Educational achievements are considered central to economic development and social inclusion. Currently, however, Europe is facing unprecedented and alarming levels of education poverty, further aggravated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemics, new waves of refugee crisis, and the ongoing military conflict in Ukraine, with its long-lasting economic, social, and educational impacts. In particular young people face immense restrictions in their access to quality education. This situation exacerbated existing inequalities and prompts new divisions between the wealthier and those more vulnerable or marginalised portions of the population.

To counter the rising levels of educational inequality, CLEAR challenges the more traditional conceptualisations of learning outcomes and underachievement, which place a strong focus on (statistically) capturing and measuring the quality of learning outcomes. Instead of identifying groups of students who are connected to poor learning outcomes and stratifying them into achievers and under-achievers, CLEAR departs from the assumption that learning outcomes are not natural and self-evident phenomena, but take on different meanings for different audiences:

  • For policy-making at European and national levels, learning outcomes are often (reduced to) statistical indicators of whether top-down policy concepts have impact.
  • For education professionals and administrators, learning outcomes are more closely informed by scholarly debates about competence levels and abilities, and usually discussed as effects of organisational and pedagogical arrangements.
  • For young people, learning outcomes are about learning for life and about oneself, as well as about aspiring for participation and opening opportunities; they become preconditions and stepping stones in pursuing life projects and dreams.

By focusing on the interplay of factors shaping the quality of learning outcomes, CLEAR seeks to better identify and target the educational challenges on various governance levels, so that it can provide focused comparative analyses. Thus, CLEAR accounts for the construction of learning outcomes from three specific perspectives:

  • It captures the construction of learning outcomes as a dynamic, relational, and contingent process shaped by a variety of actors and factors – a process that leads to numerous definitions of educational achievement depending on temporary variations of policy provision, labour market performance, individual dispositions, cultural and social trends, and dominant discursive meanings.
  • It assesses the dominant definitions of learning outcomes and (under)achievement as a result of asymmetric discursive and power relations, which are shaped by unequal spatial distribution of economic, political, and educational resources, and opportunity structures, and which, in turn, further shape the definitions of policy addressees as multi-disadvantaged youth, vulnerable individuals, low-achievers, school dropouts, NEETs, and so forth.
  • It counters the statistically captured construction of (under)achievement as a solely individual and outcome-oriented criterium for understanding educational trajectories of young people and emphasises how structural and institutional changes intermingle with youth’s life courses and shape their individual biographies.

Against this background, CLEAR’s overall aim is to examine the combination of multiple factors that shape learning outcomes and affect their quality. The project’s objectives are following:

  • to explore the interaction of multiple factors that affect the construction and assessment of learning outcomes, increase school dropout, and decrease social upward mobility;
  • to analyse the interplay of institutional infrastructures, youth’s experiences, skills ecologies, and educational policymaking that decide on the quality of learning outcomes;
  • to examine how regional and national policy coordination and the processes of skills formation and skills utilisation connect and to exemplify the factors and dynamics that cause policy mismatches and/or hinder innovative policy implementation;
  • to actively engage young people from vulnerable and multi-disadvantaged positions in identifying the main drivers and causes of their current situations; and
  • to develop policy recommendations fine-tuned to needs and visions of young people and deliver new knowledge on the social, statistical, and policy construction of (under)achievement