Early school leaving and reducing absenteeism rates is a hot issue which is on the agenda of every nation. Since the beginning of the Erasmus+ program, being one of the main priorities brought this issue to the forefront. In addition to this fact, it is a global problem that affects not only a few countries or schools but also the whole education community. It has been subject of many discussions on the EU level and the EU Commission held thematic working groups and seminars on the issue and published many articles or policy supports. At the end of all these efforts, in 2013, the EU countries have committed to reduce the average early school leaving rates below 10% by 2020. In 2015, The European Commission published their conclusions on reducing early school leaving and promoting success in school where they emphasized:
“In our increasingly diverse societies, there is an urgent need for inclusive and coordinated responses from both educational and non-educational stakeholders which are aimed at promoting common values such as tolerance, mutual respect, equal opportunities and non-discrimination, as well as fostering social integration, intercultural understanding and a sense of belonging.”Official Journal of the European Union. Volume 58, 15 December 2015
During the project, we aim to lessen the level of absenteeism which has climbed up in the last few years from one digit numbers to two digits. To fulfil our aim, we will implement measures in different steps. The first is to try to spot out the risky group using questionnaires and to get to know more about the child, the family and living conditions (Prevention). Partners have students in the early stages of absenteeism. We will immediately start counselling activities, family visits, inform all the relevant teachers and reorganize the classroom environment and even use extracurricular activities (Intervention). Finally we have a small number of students who skip school for a significant amount of time. We will make family visits as a group of teachers that the student is close to and talk to the family and the student; visit the student in his/her workplace, talk to the employer and find out more about the situation and ask for help from the social services or the local authorities. We will even try and raise some money by asking for funds from the authorities and support the family financially (Compensation).
Keeping in line with the above paragraph by the EU Commission, another objective is to create inclusive classroom and school environments where all students, regardless of their religion, ethnicity, family background etc. will feel comfortable at and will help each other; a school environment where all students, parents and staff will come together and make attractive; a school environment where there will be respect, confidence, no discrimination and understanding and most importantly a big sense of belonging.
The project has 7 partners from 5 different countries. These 7 partners include a directorate of education, 4 schools from primary-upper primary and secondary levels, 1 college that provides secondary and vocational training mainly to early school leavers and a teacher training centre that will provide in-depth professional development for the staff of the partners. All partners have previous experience in working with disadvantaged groups that are at risk of early school leaving and/or have high absenteeism levels. Each partner has also developed methods, measures, activities and connections in order to tackle this problem. The exchange of their good practices and the practices that will be developed through the project cycle will have significant impacts on the involved institutions, students, teachers, parents, stakeholders as well as wide impacts on local, regional, national and international levels.
The methodology that will be used will be mostly based on informal and non-formal teaching and learning methods. As formal methods have been tried and failed on this issue, we aim to make school more attractive and our students, parents and teachers more motivated through non-formal methods. We are also going to use questionnaires, workshops, brainstorming and mind-mapping activities, games, music, dances in order to achieve our objectives.
The transnational nature of the project will broaden the impact and bring it a new dimension. Teachers will learn from each other and the teacher training centre and become more professional and competent. Students will become aware that they are not the only weird ones with problems but there are many other kids who suffer from the same issues in different parts of the world. Institutions will become more international, improved and student friendly. Stakeholders and other related institutions will raise awareness about the problem and help in its prevention and solution.
Overall, the project will create measurable, sustainable and lifelong impacts and results on the students’ Way Back to School.