The Research Project

Education is a key determinant for individuals’ life chances in developed societies. Individuals with higher levels of education have more success in the labor market, are happier, healthier, and participate more in political life (Heckman et al., 2018; OECD, 2012; Oreopoulos & Petronijevic, 2013). At the same time, across all industrial societies, offspring from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are less likely to choose higher levels of education (Breen et al., 2009; Pfeffer, 2008; Shavit et al., 2007) even if they perform at the level of their more privileged peers in school (Jackson, 2013; Parker et al., 2016; Valdés, 2021).  

Numerous studies have shown that one of the explanations for why students from different social backgrounds choose different educational pathways is that students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds tend to have biased perceptions of the costs and benefits associated with higher levels of education (Abbiati & Barone, 2017; Grodsky & Jones, 2007; Perna & Clark, 2006). A growing literature from psychology and behavioral economics (Lavecchia et al., 2016; Thaler, 2018) suggests that behavioral barriers prevent youth from carefully weighing the real costs and benefits – and risks associated with making informed educational choices. Students are for example often more focused on the present instead of having a long-term perspective (presence bias). Additionally, cognitive overload, inattention or status quo biases can also prevent students from making optimal educational decision (French & Oreopoulos, 2017; Lavecchia et al., 2016). 

The core of the research builds on an intervention design where randomly chosen groups of students sit through information sessions and guidance sessions while others are part of the control group.

At different time points, before and after the intervention, students, parents, and guidance professionals answer questionnaire surveys.  The research is aimed at students at compulsory schools, right before they transition to secondary education, and at upper secondary school students who are close to graduation.

In order to achieve its ambitious research agenda, EDUCHANGE is structured around five interdependent work packages (WPs). WP1 (mapping career guidance across countries) will lay the groundwork for the intervention studies in WP2 (intervention at first transition, fall of 2024) and WP3 (intervention at second transition, spring of 2025), while WP4 (multimedia technologies) delivers technological expertise for the two intervention studies in WP2 and WP3, respectively. WP5 (evidence synthesis and dissemination) is devoted to collecting and synthesizing all findings from the project in order to inform future research and practice.