Time spent in education today is an investment for tomorrow says a new joint Eurydice/Cedefop report published at the end of November 2014. The report, entitled “Tackling Early Leaving from Education and Training in Europe. Strategies, Policies and Measures” monitors developments across Europe and confirms that early leaving represents a complex challenge at individual, national and European levels.
In the vast majority of European countries the rate of early leavers has decreased over the last years, and EU countries are collectively heading towards reaching the benchmark goal by 2020 if the current trend continues.
However, early leaving from education and training is still a serious challenge for individuals and societies as young people who leave education without a labour market relevant qualification are often both socially and economically disadvantaged compared to those who stay on and gain the necessary competences to help them succeed in life. This is analysed in a Eurydice/Cedefop report carried out for the European Commission and published on 20 November 2014.
The report shows that in the EU-28, on average, 19.7% of young people with lower secondary education at most, are in employment, compared to 42.7% of young people who have gained an upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary qualification and 54.6% of tertiary graduates.
The report sheds light on early leaving from education and training – a serious challenge in many EU countries. The report aims to add value to Member States’ individual efforts as well as to the European Commission’s endeavours in this area by monitoring developments in the design and implementation of strategies, policies and measures to combat early leaving and support student learning.
Factors contributing to early leaving
Leaving education and training early is a complex issue and the causes vary from student to student. The second chapter of the report shows that family and/or migrant background, gender and socio economic circumstances as well as factors related to the education and training system are only some of the elements implicated to a greater or lesser extent in the process leading students to leave education and training early.
Statistically, students who are born abroad, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and males are more prone to early leaving than other groups. As far as gender is concerned, the figures show that boys are over-represented amongst early leavers in general education. However, the higher the socio-economic status of students, the less apparent is the difference in the rates of early leaving between the genders.
Statistics also show that foreign-born students are more likely to leave education and training early. Indeed, students with a migrant background generally face greater challenges in accessing and participating in education than those born in the country of residence. This can be due to language and/or cultural barriers, socio-economic segregation, limited access to sufficient learning support, etc. However, it is important to keep in mind that data on migrant populations inherently have their limitations. Data on foreign-born early leavers supplied to Eurostat by the national statistical authorities have low reliability for twelve countries, and for eleven other countries the most recent data is not available because of a very small sample size. Therefore, the numbers of foreign-born early leavers are inaccurate in these countries, and this is without even mentioning non-registered/irregular migration, which is impossible to account for. Finally, there are no comparable data available for second generation migrants at EU level.
As shown by this report, coming from a migrant/minority background or being a male should not be seen as defining factors with respect to early leaving. The socio-economic situation of students appears to exert the stronger influence on the probability of leaving education and training early than other factors. Difficult family situations such as unemployment, low household income and low levels of parental education, can have a direct and lasting effect on students’ school career, their attitudes
towards learning, their educational achievement; and this can consequently lead to their decision to leave education and training early. This is also one of the main reasons why cross-government and cross-sector cooperation to ensure the coordination of the different services supporting the multiple needs of disadvantaged families is so crucial (see Chapter 4).
A number of factors relating to the education system that influence early leaving rates have also been discussed in chapter 2. The negative aspects include grade retention, the socio-economic segregation of schools and early tracking based on academic selection. However, there are also positive factors that can lower the risk of early leaving, such as participation in high quality early childhood education and care and well-managed transition processes from primary to secondary level, and lower to upper
secondary level, and from school to work. Flexible pathways in upper secondary education can also have a positive effect in preventing or reducing early leaving. Finally, factors such as local labour market conditions can act as ‘pull’ or ‘push’ factors in the early leaving process, which highlights the complex relationship of the early leaving phenomenon with employment. It also underlines the important role of education and career guidance in supporting students to make appropriate choices for themselves (see Chapter 5).