The international and interdisciplinary Research School Education and Capabilities (EduCap) is a center of excellence for doctoral studies in education and social justice. Jointly funded by the State of North-Rhine Westphalia, the University of Bielefeld and the Technical University of Dortmund, EduCap offers an innovative programme of study and research as well as an outstanding learning environment for young researchers.
Since December 2008, about 50 excellent young researchers from diverse disciplines have been admitted to the programme after a global and highly competitive selection procedure. Furthermore excellent doctoral students and post-docs from the hosting universities and beyond were admitted as associates.
With backgrounds in educational science, language studies, sociology and psychology they are engaged in interdisciplinary research and participate in a study program with 20 teaching professors. What makes EduCap especially attractive to young scholars from empirical educational research is the chance to take part in the large-scale longitudinal study PARS. The objective of the programme is to provide the methodological tools and theoretical input for a fast, but ambitious doctorate.
Almost half of the students have come from abroad, with a total of 19 countries being involved. The language of instruction is English. The young researchers do not only profit from the school’s education and support but in particular from the inspiring atmosphere of a daily exchange of disciplines, languages and cultures.
Large-scale studies like TIMSS, PISA, PIRLS, and DESI (a German study designed to measure students’ achievement in German and English) have demonstrated repeatedly that there are large groups of pupils in the participating countries that are severely disadvantaged, socially as well as economically. This has the corollary effect of their suffering a disadvantage in the educational system. In the ensuing debate, it has become clear that a significant reduction of these socio-economic or ethnic disadvantages cannot be achieved by the efforts of the schools alone. This is precisely the point of departure for EduCap’s research programme.
In its goal to investigate the conditioning factors of educational disadvantages within and outside schools, EduCap concentrates on the acquisition of social and linguistic abilities (oral and written) as important competences for learning and the participation in society. In doing so, it profits especially from the conceptual framework of the Capability Approach while developing it further with regard to the field of educational justice. It is from this focus that complex and detailed research studies have originated on the major processes of participation and exclusion as well as the acquisition and teaching of competences to children and adolescents.
As a consequence of its thematic and conceptual orientation as well as its methodological programme, the School’s academic training will provide a new theoretical and professional basis for socially balanced reforms in education and teaching.