Lifelong Learning Programme

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Teachers’ Guidelines

Homepage > Teachers’ Guidelines > Understanding Early School Leaving

An overview of the current situation of early school leaving in Europe

Understanding Early School Leaving

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3. Policy and Early School Leaving
Education is in fact a relatively new field of EU action. It was only in the 80s that educations really become part of the discussion on the priorities of the EU’s action and, although the Maastricht Treaty still reaffirmed national exclusive competences over educational systems, at the same time its Article 126 authorized the EU adopt actions in order to contribute to “quality education”. Since then the progress has been continuous and has led to European Council Conclusions of March 2000 in Lisbon, known as “The Lisbon Strategy”, a mile stone, based on the goal transforming Europe into the most competitive and dynamic knowledge economy in the world. In this process of intervention on national strategic policies on education ESL has always been at the core of the discussion. It is important to underline that in its action on education the EU Commission has to maintain a careful balance between, on one hand, putting forward goals and objectives for the benefit of the EU economic space and, on the other, respect the domestic competence of Member States on all matters pertaining to education. At the same time one should wonder if the focus on education solely as a means to reduce poverty and enhance economic growth is not somehow limiting the relevance of an action on fostering innovative educational approaches.

Reducing the frequency of Early School Leaving in Europe is one of the main objectives set in the field of education. Starting from a regular data collection and monitoring process, policy-makers should provide quantitative and qualitative surveys on the early school leavers to adopt regulatory mechanisms and targeted policies.

According to the European Commission, efforts to tackle Early School Leaving should be based on a coordinated strategy between all the authority levels and the policy areas. What is necessary is implementing a political coordination within European actors, national authorities and public/private networks.

In this regard, legislative measures stressed the need for cooperation between Member States in order to develop quality education and successful school systems.

Following the above mentioned Lisbon Strategy, the European Parliament resolution on the mid-term review of the Lisbon Strategy (2005) identified in the achievement of the Lisbon Strategy’s goals a top priority for the next five years; at the same time, the Council conclusions of May 2009 established a Strategic Framework for European Cooperation in Education and Training (“ET 2020”) .

The Education Council Recommendation on policies to reduce early school leaving together with the European Parliament resolution on tackling early school leaving, both adopted in 2011, are additional supporting tools in the exchange of good practices between States, in providing preventive strategies and in the development of ES Leavers reintegration policies .

Finally, the Europe 2020 Strategy was launched in 2010 as the updated priority for the next decade, while targeting to create a smart, sustainable and inclusive European economy, aiming to reduce, in the field of education, the average European rate of early school leavers to less than 10% by 2020.

In line with the dissemination of European political strategies, the Council of Europe is actively pursuing cooperation in the area of education, supporting action at local and national level and promoting pluralism and quality teaching. Through the adoption of several important documents, including the Council of Europe Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education (CM/Rec(2010)7), Recommendation on the promotion and recognition of non-formal education / learning of young people (CM/ Rec(2003)8) and Recommendation on the public responsibility for higher education and research (CM/Rec(2007)6) the States have been invited several times to identify priority challenges, probable solutions and examples of good practice .

The Council Recommendation adopted in 2011 underlines the need for a targeted comprehensive strategy, involving all levels of education and a strong community-based action.

To be effective, the strategy should include three types of measures based on national, obvious circumstances, namely: prevention, compensation and intervention.

All these policies are respectively expected to: understand the sources of eventual dropping outs, support pupils’ first difficulties in learning and help reintegrating early school leavers in education and training systems.

In tackling Early School Leaving a political and financial participation of multi-agents is required: in order to establish a synergetic approach between relevant policy areas and national, regional and local stakeholders it is necessary to enhance governance and cross-sector cooperation.

The literature on the topic demonstrates that, although there is clear evidence on the multiple costs related to ESL, policies adopted at national level have yet to demonstrate their value, due mainly to the lack of relevant and coherent data (Brunello-De Paola, 2013).

EU action on the issue is based on one hand on encouraging careful data collection and evaluation within member States and, on the other, on a traditional intergovernmental model based on States cooperation. EU funding on actions tackling ESL is transversal, continuous and clearly aimed at promoting a change within the school systems structures and teachers’ competences which are perceived as the most relevant push factors of ESL.
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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.