Institute of Education

Research & Expertise to Make a Difference in Education & Beyond

IOE Welcomes First International Summer School ‘Inequality of Educational Opportunities’

In July 2017, the HSE Institute of Education welcomed its first international summer school Inequality of Educational Opportunities. Organized by the IOE International Laboratory for Education Policy Analysis, this venue aimed to promote best-practice approaches to inequality research through multi-dimensional academic debate and learning about today’s advanced methodology in social data analysis.    

Fostering multidisciplinary learning & networking has always been among top priorities at the HSE Institute of Education. For one thing, it is essential for advancing scholarship in reliance on diverse opinions and firsthand expertise of leading education & social policy professionals. For another, it provides dynamic upskilling environments to empower motivation, resource and integrative vision for future research among younger academic talent.      

The year 2017 marks a momentous point for IOE in this respect, as the first-ever international summer school Inequality of Educational Opportunities was held in Moscow during July 2–7. Inspired and organized by the IOE International Laboratory for Education Policy Analysis, the Summer School brought together a host of top-prospect early-career scholars from Russia, Italy, Vietnam, Turkey, Serbia, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan and Armenia, with the total number of applications filed indicating the academic community’s most keen interest in the featured research topic.

Exploring various factors of learning choice, accessibility and opportunity has traditionally been an important part of both qualitative and quantitative research in education, which bears a high relevance for broader agendas in national and cross-country studies of socioeconomic inequity. As part of the School’s multi-format sessions led by distinguished international faculty, including Prof. Barbara Schneider (Michigan State University), Prof. Ernesto Treviño Villarreal (Catholic University of Chile) and Prof. Isak Froumin (HSE Institute of Education), the School’s enrollees gained comprehensive insights into such areas as: inequality in individual learning achievement; disparities in education access by different communities and income groups; resource misbalance and deprivation within educational systems; and political, sectorial and institutional strategies to better tackle educational and social inequalities.

I would honestly say that I have loved everything about the Summer School; it has been an undisputed success. My heartfelt thanks go to the organizing committee and the students for their unfailing cooperation and hard work. Looking ahead, I would just really appreciate learners getting more engaged in Q&A, I hope they display more willingness to take the stage next time!
Back to the School’s main topic, which is social and educational inequalities, focusing on these issues is important simply because of the persistently growing income gaps across nations. We often see communities slip away from inclusive diversity to increasingly segregated societies of the most and least privileged, as the world is getting more and more divided by wealth, legal deprivation and biased policy.
Indeed, this is a problem of immense magnitude and highly challenging agenda, which confronts stakeholders at all levels. To make sure the world becomes a better place for everyone, we must pursue more proactive and visionary collaboration in countering exclusion in every corner of the globe. Populations are growing and some groups face acute resource scarcity and meager social opportunity, but securing long-term integrity and growth means that no single person should be left by the wayside. All of this calls for more clearly articulated and ubiquitous commitments to better upholding human rights, where the right to education is among the most essential ones, as it is through improved equity and pluralism in learning that we can forge sustainable personal welfare and empower decent life-courses for others.
Barbara Schneider, Professor, Michigan State University 

The School’s practical focus was on acquainting junior-career researchers with frontline methodology in analyzing and interpreting various types of data on inequality. In particular, the participants have received hands-on experience in using the latest quantitative tools for measuring inequality effects based on evidence from the PISA, ICCS and HSLS studies. Student feedback suggests these practical exposures will lay important groundwork for pursuing new research projects in the field, drawing upon valuable guidance and advice they have received from the School’s faculty.

Without any doubt, the Summer School has become a valued experience for everyone involved. This week of intense learning and debate further reaffirms the argument that inequality is a complex, multi-layered phenomenon molded by a string of interrelated factors, where no aspect – be that gender-related, legal or political issues – should be treated in isolation.
For education-focused research, a major imperative is therefore to try and elaborate approaches empowering the broadest possible perspective on the multiplicity of interplays among social inequality markers and learning environments. This is where a robust mix of qualitative and quantitative methods steps in as the only way to attain the most comprehensive and compelling research evidence. For one thing, quantification techniques, which have been broadly covered in this School, yield data enabling a more representative understanding and benchmarking of particular processes shaping inequalities, whether it is a school classroom, an institutional cluster or a social group. But at the same time, we simply cannot do without qualitative studies, as they give insights about current teaching models, the psychological facets, social attitudes and moral values comprising the substance of learning & development settings.
It goes without saying that evidence derived from research makes sense only when it adds value to socioeconomic policy. What is really daunting in this respect is that much of the academic input still perishes into oblivion, since it is often viewed by policymakers as something incomprehensible and of little utility. This once again emphasizes the need for upgrading and advancing research–policy partnerships as environments of greater transparency and mutual responsibility, relevant social objectives, shared vision, and, most importantly, intelligible communication. So, for strategists to become better aware and appreciative of research contributions, 21st-century academics should certainly learn to liaise in more plain and accessible language of action plans and policy briefs.
Ernesto Treviño Villarreal, Professor, Catholic University of Chile 

The 2017 debut School has heralded a valuable addition to IOE’s learning & networking portfolio, and is certainly well poised to become a regular annual event sharing cutting-edge research and policy perspectives on today’s inequality agendas across educational landscapes and communities at large. 

This Summer School has been a unique place for learning systemically about various ways that lack of political and resource justice leads to persisting social and economic disparities. Such inequalities, in turn, trigger major mismatches in education expectations, access and opportunity among lower- and higher-income groups, with many education systems worldwide still distinctively favoring learners of a higher socioeconomic status. Naturally enough, this acts to further widen the gaps in personal learning achievement across social landscapes, which hamper career prospects and the quality of social capital. Hence, what we are confronted with is continual social and educational inequalities adding up and working to amplify one another – the biggest concern for both researchers and strategists.
The Summer School has provided multiple insights about actual policy upgrades at various levels, such as national scenarios to achieve equity gains, improvements in stakeholder partnerships for better resource parity, enhanced institutional governance models and so on, alongside highly appreciated practical exposures to cutting-edge methods for quantifying and interpreting inequality data. Sure, all of this will become a valuable asset to draw upon in conceptualizing and carrying out my future research projects.
It has been a pleasure to share the moments of enlightenment with the top-notch faculty and supportive fellows. Many thanks again to everyone for making this event one to remember!
Elena Minina, Associate Professor, HSE Institute of Education