Today, most children start their education already in early care and education institutions (childcare centres, crèches, pre-kindergartens, kindergartens, nursery schools or pre-schools) far before they reach legal school age. Although compulsory education ends between the ages fifteen and eighteen (varying by country), the time spent in school is significantly longer than the legal minimum today. The educational system sorts students into stratified tracks and curricular programs, and labels them as more or less able. Young people pass through school, vocational education and/or university where they acquire degrees and certificates that are recognized in the world of work. The aim of the project “Education as a Lifelong Process. Comparing Educational Trajectories in Modern Societies” (eduLIFE project), supported by the European Research Council (ERC), was to study how individuals’ educational careers unfold over the live course in relation to family background, educational institutions, workplaces, and private life events. The project took an explicit life course perspective where the movement of individuals through the educational system is seen as the central objective of study. Educational careers are viewed as a flow chart in which previous decisions and experiences influence subsequent decisions and experiences, and various pathways can have different consequences in terms of competence development and other (economic or non-economic) returns to education. This Special Issue of the Journal of Sociology and Social Anthropology includes an introduction and nine articles. The authors want to achieve both, (1) to give the reader a concise and informative overview on the key findings of the comparative eduLIFE project and (2) to report in more detail the most important results for Russia.

Keywords: life course research, early care and education institutions, school systems, vocational training, gender-specific segregation, life-long learning, longitudinal research, cross-national research