Early leaving from education and training (ELET) is a serious issue in many EU countries and has attracted the attention of many researchers, policy-makers and educators. Although the situation varies between countries and the underlying reasons for leaving school early differ from student to student, the process leading up to it has a number of common elements, including learning difficulties, socio-economic problems, and a lack of motivation, guidance or support.
As a consequence of leaving education and training early, young people may be faced with reduced opportunities in the labour market and an increased likelihood of unemployment and socio-economic disadvantage; and they may be less inclined to participate in political, social and cultural spheres of life. On the other hand, there is an abundance of research indicating that a higher level of education can lead to many positive outcomes for the individual as well as for society. They include improved employment prospects, higher salaries, better health and well-being for young people; and improved social cohesion, lower public and social costs, and higher productivity and growth for societies.
Dealing with the underlying causes of the problem and developing ways to overcome it is therefore a central aim in Europe. One of the twofold headline targets for education in the Europe 2020 strategy is to reduce the rates of early leaving to below 10 % by 2020 (1). In June 2011, education ministers agreed on a ‘Framework for coherent, comprehensive, and evidence-based policies’ to tackle early leaving (2). Since then, working groups at European level, bringing together national policy-makers and practitioners, have looked at examples of good practice and promoted an exchange of experiences on fostering educational success and preventing early leaving (3). In November 2015, the conclusions of the Education Council reiterated the need to actively pursue efforts to achieve, and where possible even exceed, the Europe 2020 target (4).
The latter document further invites Member States to continue the process of developing and implementing comprehensive strategies or integrated policies.
These should comprise evidence- based prevention, intervention and compensation measures, which are embedded in high-quality education and training programmes. Many education policies and measures therefore have the potential to contribute to reducing early leaving. For the 2016 structural indicators on early leaving, a selection of key policies that together cover the three important areas of action – prevention, intervention and compensation – has been made, and is illustrated in the diagram below.
The indicators focus on school education: primary education and general secondary as well as school- based initial vocational education (IVET) (ISCED levels 1, 2 and 3). Adult education may be covered too in the context of compensation policies (see Section 6 on providing support to early leavers to re- enter the education and training system).
In this analysis, ‘early leaving from education and training’ refers to students leaving education and training before completing the upper secondary level and obtaining a corresponding school leaving certificate. This broad definition encompasses the young people who according to their own country’s definition are considered to be early leavers. This includes, for example, young people who leave (or drop out of) school without completing what is considered in the national context as basic education (usually primary and lower secondary education).
Policies for increasing the flexibility and permeability of education pathways generally seek to minimise the risk of early leaving by offering students a wider choice of programmes or alternative pathways (academic, technical or vocational), as well as providing opportunities for students to change tracks or programmes which do not meet their needs. Other policies are designed to ensure a smooth transition between education levels and programmes (especially from general education to VET programmes). Measures to improve the recognition of skills and qualifications can help students progress to the next level or re- engage in education or training if they have left the system prematurely.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Structural indicators on early leaving from education and training in Europe – 2016 – Education policy – EU Bookshop