Theme 1: Social and educational conditions for success

The research projects developed under this first theme aim to gain a better understanding of how success is constructed within the education system, from primary to higher education. The notion of success is linked to the standards imposed by an educational institution, which can vary within each level and each course of study. The ability to live up to the demands made by the educational institution depends on the role of cultural inheritance, as was shown in the 1960s-1970s (Bourdieu and Passeron, 1964), but also on the way in which the educational institution may or may not help to reduce initial inequalities (Duru-Bellat and Mingat, 1997). The aim is therefore to understand what role schools can play in improving the conditions for success, while taking into account the heritage and family socialisation that continue to structure inequalities. In this context, and despite the major disparities that exist in terms of resources, at the level of pupils and their families as well as at the level of schools, we will also look at the conditions for an effective and equitable school that could promote success for all (Demeuse et alii, 2005), focusing on two complementary approaches.

The first will focus on the way in which learners’ prior learning and skills develop and evolve in different contexts and help to explain their choice of direction and pathway to success. The second approach will take account of the resources with which students are endowed and which are likely to influence their success. This will involve taking account of social and family resources (Meuret and Morlaix, 2006) as well as more collective resources linked to educational institutions, which can help to structure inequalities in success.

Sub-theme 1.1: Pupils’ achievements, skills and pathways to success

Young children approach school learning unequally ‘equipped’, generating social inequalities in performance from the very first years of primary school, which will increase as they progress and will not prove without consequences for their school careers (Duru-Bellat, Farges and van Zanten, 2018). These findings raise questions about the nature of the skills, both academic and non-academic, developed by learners and the effects of these acquisitions on their success. The work carried out at the IREDU over the last ten years or so has led to a better theoretical understanding of the processes involved in acquiring these skills, but also to the development of tools for measuring them and assessing their impact on learning pathways.

A number of research projects aim to take this work a step further, at certain stages in the child’s life that appear to be crucial. For example, at primary school level, in view of the recent requirement for children to be educated from the age of three, the aim will be to study the effects of early schooling on pupils’ learning (PRESCOL project, – BFC Region seed project), in particular by using the ELFE longitudinal survey (national survey coordinated by INED and INSERM). The end of secondary education, the implementation of the Student Orientation and Success Act (ORE) in 2018 and the reform of the baccalaureate in 2021 have also raised new questions about students’ pathways to success, and the skills and achievements that need to be developed to improve their chances of a desired career path. The work will focus on the guidance process from secondary to higher education, in particular by studying the individual and contextual determinants of the guidance preferences of secondary school students, guidance support by professionals and territorial inequalities in guidance (in collaboration with the PIA 3 ORLYSUP project, University of Rouen, Rennes and Laval) or by seeking to identify the best predictors of success in the first year of university among those available in Parcoursup (joint project with the LEAD laboratory, UMR 5022).

Secondly, ‘education for’ covers a wide range of areas of social life and training purposes, and there is an ever-increasing demand for its introduction into schools (Audigier, 2012). The work will focus on the problems associated with the ways in which these skills are acquired by pupils, following on from the work carried out at IREDU on the acquisition of academic and non-academic skills. It is in this context that the role of the school effect in the development of citizenship skills by students in secondary education is being examined. In addition to citizenship education, other research projects focus on other facets of ‘education for’. For example, work could be done on education for critical thinking, through the fight against misinformation among young people (DESINFO project – seed project Région BFC), on health education (SANMIS project – large-scale project Région BFC), on education for sustainable development or on education for career guidance and discovery of the business world by pupils (finalisation of a project financed by the Fonds d’Expérimentation de la Jeunesse).

Sub-theme 1.2: The role of socio-economic resources, educational practices and institutions in educational inequalities

A great deal of research, some of which has been carried out at IREDU, has highlighted the complexity of the effects of education policies on the schooling of pupils and learners. They can sometimes compensate for the lack of socio-economic resources of families and regions. But they can also give rise to new inequalities and perverse effects. This sub-theme looks more specifically at the role of socio-economic resources, educational practices and institutions in creating social inequalities in schooling.

The transition from school to collège is a key factor in priority education, in terms of securing learning for the most disadvantaged pupils. This will be one of the aims of the evaluation of the Cité Éducative in Nevers, which should make it possible to study how a partnership approach at local level can reduce the number of pupils dropping out of school and make it easier for them to continue their studies.

Vocational education also represents a major challenge in terms of inequality of opportunity. The transformation of the vocational route has led to a change in the types of students who go through these different streams. From a longitudinal perspective, the research will look at the educational careers of young people from vocational education, examining the new conditions for success in this pathway, as well as the effects of selection and self-selection in the guidance process. Using DEPP secondary panel data, one of the challenges will be to study the effects of the 2009 reform on the career paths of CAP students, the first level of school-leavers (research conducted with LEST-UMR 7317). Another challenge will be to study, in relation to their social and educational characteristics, the opportunities for vocational baccalaureate holders to continue their studies in higher education.

Other work could focus on the general stream and the transition from lycée to higher education. The effects of recent national reforms (reform of the lycée and baccalauréat, reform of medical studies, etc.) and the development of teaching methods in higher education are aimed at improving the conditions for orientation, but also success in the post-bac years. Research carried out as part of the PIA RITM-BFC project will enable us to understand the impact of various innovative support, tutoring, success assistance and remedial measures on inequalities. Inequalities can also be examined specifically in certain fields of study from a gender perspective, as in the case of an ANR project being conducted jointly with members of the Paris School of Economics and the University of Toronto, with the aim of studying the effectiveness of female role models in guiding girls into scientific fields of study.

The ‘teacher’ effect is also an important dimension in understanding educational inequalities. This sub-theme will focus primarily on teaching practices by analysing teachers’ conceptions of teaching, the factors influencing the construction of teaching practices and their effects on learners’ schooling in the broadest sense. The work could focus on teachers’ assessment practices, following on from a partnership with the CNESCO, or on the role played by these practices in pupils’ learning. For example, a project being carried out in partnership with an LEA (Lieu d’Education Associé de l’Institut Français de l’Education) at a secondary school in the Dijon area aims to train teachers to pay attention and to measure the effects on pupils’ study habits. Lastly, other research will focus on the specific context of university teaching, following on from the issues it has had to face since the COVID19 pandemic. For example, work will be carried out on the links between the use of online teaching platforms by lecturers and student engagement, or on the effects of verbal interaction in lectures on engagement and success in the first year of university.