The Concept

The European Union defines early school leavers as people aged 18-24 who have only lower secondary education or less and are no longer in education or training.

Early school leavers are therefore those who have only achieved pre-primary, primary, lower secondary or a short upper secondary education of less than 2 years.

Early school leaving can take several forms. It includes young people who have dropped out of school before the end of compulsory education, those who have completed compulsory schooling, but have not gained an upper secondary qualification, and those who have followed pre-vocational or vocational courses which did not lead to a qualification equivalent to upper secondary level.

Early leavers from education and training among people aged 18-24 years, 2019

Current information published by the European Union can be found at Early leavers from education and training across EU regions

Situation in Turkey
Evolution of ESL in Turkey

Early school leaving and absenteeism has always been in the priority list of the problems the educational institutions are facing in Turkey. This is due to the fact that some of the students attending the public schools have a series of socio-economical problems,they come from different cultural backgrounds and as they don’t have sufficient parental support they are behind their class mates in terms of academical success. All these problems result in distancing themselves from school and that leads to the high rates in absenteeism or early school leaving.

The ministry of education and other educational bodies have been taking precautions,running projects like ours in order to lessen the number of these students. They have been trying to make schools a more attractive environment for these students,support them financially and the teachers at schools have been supporting these students with extra classes to improve their success.

Despite all these efforts made,during the pandemics process we were faced with a totally unexpected and different scenario as a country. We had to close schools and the students had to go on with their education through online classes for more than a year. This situation obviously caused a lot of problems fort he students from the risky group as they lacked technological devices or the internet to attend the online classes. Although the govermental bodies and local institutions tried to do their best to provide these children with what they needed in order to be able to attend their classes,it was not always enough.

After the online classes process, we observed a positive attitude in the parents’ point of view towards education and school. We can easily say that during those times when their children were at home, in front of the screens trying to catch up with the school subjects, struggling on their own, away from their peers and teachers, the parents began to understand the great importance of the school as an educational institution and teachers as leaders and guides in their childrens’ lives. We have seen that parents felt themselves inadequate in helping their children with their lessons, planning their free time, assisting them for their homework and maintaining a disciplined atmosphere at home.

From the students’ point of view, they came to realise the importance of school and education mainly because the pandemics helped them to see face to face interaction among the shareholders of education is of crucial importance and they have begun to understand the value of attendance more as they fell behind the rest of the class more and more because they couldn’t fully attend the online classes. All the schools in Turkey have supported their students with extra classes to help them recover from the absence in online classes but the process had been too long to fully heal; they were locked down in their homes for almost a year and a half. More students have declared that they have difficulty doing their homework as there is a big gap in their knowledge of the cirriculum of each school subject. In order to overcome this obstacle, as the teachers in every school, we came to a mutual understanding on lowering the difficulty level of the questions in our exams and to support these students more especially before the examinations.

To sum up, the process of pandemics has brought a structural change to the concept of education all over the World.It remains to be seen which of these changes will remain when the pandemics is finally over and which will disappear and what schools as an educational institution will look like in the eyes of the shareholders in the end. In the meantime, all the teachers will continue to provide as much support as possible to the students for their social and academic wellbeing.

Situation in Ireland
Evolution of ESL in Ireland

At a 5%, early school leaving in Ireland sits comfortably well below the European Union average, around half the goals set by the Union. Nevertheless, the country’s authorities are aware of the economic and social consequences ESL can bring to their fellow citizens, so different programmes have been deployed to tackle the situation and help them bridge the gap to chances of qualified employment. Among those schemes, we can find:

  • School Completion Programme: The School Completion Programme (SCP) aims to help students from disadvantaged areas stay in school to complete their Leaving Certificate. SCP forms part of the Department of Education social inclusion strategy Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) to help children and young people who are at risk of or who are experiencing educational disadvantage. Each project is managed by a local management committee and provides a tailored programme of in-school, after school and holiday time interventions to targeted children and young people who are at risk of early school leaving.
  • Back to Education Initiative: The Back to Education Initiative provides opportunities for second chance education to adult learners and early school leavers who want to upgrade their skills. The initiative builds on existing schemes such as Youthreach and Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS). It also includes adult literacy schemes, community education and Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses.
  • Youthreach Programme: Youthreach is a joint programme between the Department of Education and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. It is intended to help young people return to learning and prepare for employment and adult life. It also provides them with opportunities to get certified qualifications. The programme is aimed at unemployed early school leavers aged 15 to 20. The Youthreach programme is delivered through Youthreach centres and Community Training Centres.
  • Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme: The Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) is a special range of courses designed to meet the education needs of unemployed people who are early school-leavers. The scheme aims to give them a choice of options from basic education and training to advanced vocational preparation and training. It targets people over the age of 21 who have been getting unemployment payments or signing for credits for at least 6 months. It is delivered through the Education and Training Boards (ETBs) at centres all over Ireland – see ‘Where to apply’ below.
  • Situation in Italy
    Evolution of ESL in Italy

    According to a report of the MIUR, in the school year 2018-2019 about 102 thousand students dropped out of the Italian school in a single school year. A worrying fact, destined to accumulate in those of previous periods.
    Early school leaving in Italy, both in middle and high school, mainly concerns boys. According to the report, 0.59% of boys drop out of middle school against 0.51% of girls, a gap that grows at the top (4% of boys and 2.6% of girls).
    Moreover, school dropout is more frequent in the Mezzogiorno, where the highest rates for middle school are found in Sicily, Calabria and Campania. For high school the picture is similar, but with proportionally higher numbers: here the dropout rates are 4.5% in Sardinia, 4.1% in Campania and 3.9% in Sicily. Lombardy, Liguria and Tuscany follow, all with percentages higher than the Italian average of 3.3%.

    Situation in Croatia
    Evolution of ESL in Croatia

    Thanks to the political dedication and financial investments all over the EU, there has been a decrease in early school leaving, from 11.9% in 2013, to 10.6 % in 2018, in the EU. However, there are huge differences between the member states. Croatia has been one of the best, with a 3.3% in 2018. Still, Croatia needs a sustainable national strategy to lower the number of early school leavers, which would include developed intervention and compensation measures. Some of them would be the involvement of the business sector in assisting with this educational and social problem, as would the cooperation between different systems – education, social welfare, and health care.

    Parents and their negative attitude towards education or school staff members can affect early school leaving. Several vulnerable groups have been identified across Croatia, e.g., young people with a migrant status and Roma people, who have to be especially taken care of when creating a national prevention programme. School leaving can be related to the structural features of the educational system, such as inflexibility in education, inefficient early tracking, inhospitable school climate, peer bullying, and not getting enough support from experts. Also, bad relationships between teachers and students can also lead to the student feeling estranged from the school, learning and creativity.

    Many members of the Roma minority live in the northernmost part of Croatia, Međimurje, where our school is located. They are one of the riskiest groups when talking about early school leaving, so the number of students repeaters in the lower grades and the number school leavers is the highest in our county. Our school also has a lot of Roma children enrolled, so we are able to witness a number of actions and measures taken. The goals of these actions are early integration, inclusion and enabling same starting points. The fact is that this is a long-term process which will not show improvements over night. However, because of the early introduction to the system, small positive shifts are visible. Just a few years ago, Roma children did not attend any preschool programmes, and because of that, they did not have the same starting points. They started their educational process without knowing the basics of the Croatian language, they interacted with books, notebooks, and pencils for the first time in their lives in first grade, henceforth, they did not know how to use them, they could not follow basic classroom instructions, and finally, they were not able to satisfy the criteria to advance to a higher grade. All of this was obviously extremely demotivating and early school leaving was the outcome.

    Nowadays, all students must attend preschool, and since this year we have a younger group that will have been at preschool for two years before they start with primary school. Preschool is free for all students, two meals are provided, and it is well accepted by the parents. The results of attending preschool can be seen in the success made in the first grades of elementary school. Furthermore, Roma students have two additional classes of Croatian per week, so that they can reach the level of other students and more easily advance through the curriculum. We have also included our Roma students in extended stay programmes in order for them to spend more time in school, do their homework and study with someone who can help them. We currently do not have an extended stay programme, but the Ministry of Education and Science has recognized the necessity for such a scheme, and we will have an extended stay programme next year. This is particularly important since Roma students do not complete their school tasks or homework at home, which has been emphasized even more during the COVID-19 pandemic and the online classes. Unfortunately, students of a lower socio-economic level do not have the possibility to regularly attend online classes and they do not have adequate educational assistance at home when trying to do homework or study, which is why the extended stay programme will compensate for all of the hindrances and irregular class participation.

    In Croatia, we also have the possibility to adapt the curriculum, which means that the methods and techniques used could also be tailored to a particular student’s needs and possibilities with those students staying in regular classes. These students are also enabled to enrol in a secondary school by separate ranking scales and separate customized courses. Roma students are provided with a scholarship and free accommodation in a dormitory. Thanks to all these means, the number of students that enrol and finish secondary schools has risen.

    We believe all these means and methods will have a positive impact and make great changes in educating risky groups and that today’s generation of students will view the importance of education differently. Also, the increased level of education and positive experiences will affect the upbringing and education of their children one day which is the ultimate goal of such social and educational policies.

    If the issue is identified early enough and the parents, the school and the whole community get involved, it is possible to increase students’ motivation to continue with their education and to encourage young people to persevere and attend high school (despite the problems that are currently bothering the person, family, or school). Young people can recognize the value of education if they are approached as equals whose opinions matter – they are then able to make informed decisions and manage their life responsibly.

    Situation in Spain
    Evolution of ESL in Spain

    One of the main educational objectives for the EU is the reduction of Early Educational Leaving below 10%, as stated in the 2020 European strategy. Since it is a persistent phenomenon, with different realities depending on the country, it must definitely be approached from a polyhedral perspective.

    This reality is still today the gateway to school failure and must be understood as a serious social problem associated not only with the lack of academic preparation but, subsequently, with worse chances of employability and the precipice which implies social exclusion, but it also significantly affects the expectations of the people who experience it, as well as their own freedom and personal autonomy.

    Spain’s educational system has managed to consistently decrease the ESL rate in recent years but, although widely differing among regions (some well accommodated within or below the EU average), the national figures sit at a current 16% and are still very far from that 10% goal.

    In this project, we have tried to introduce arguments and proposals in an interdisciplinary approach, showing the efforts carried out in our region (Asturias), the second one in Spain with a lower ESL: joint intervention between different public services (educational, social, cultural, healthcare…) and social entities working in the school areas; intervention with families and students on issues such as self-esteem, personal well-being…; improvement of their living conditions, among others.

    From what we have seen, a shared effort between all educational administrations and other public and private institutions is necessary to address this phenomenon and achieve the eradication of early school leaving in the coming years. The sum of all the parts will be the beginning of the end of the problem.