‘Early leaving from education and training’ (ELET) refers to students leaving education and training before completing the upper secondary level or obtaining the 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.
It 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).
Besides the Eurostat definition of early leavers, the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs in Greece uses another definition of early leaving: not having completed compulsory education or other equivalent vocational education or training.
Factors against early leaving from education and training
A national data collection system based on a student register can be used to understand the scale of the problem and to develop and implement appropriate policies to address ELET. Such a system can also be employed to both monitor absenteeism and evaluate the effectiveness of policies to reduce early leaving. Student register based data can also be employed to monitor absenteeism, thereby acting as a warning system to alert schools and authorities that they may need to intervene to help students at risk of leaving early.
Policies for increasing the flexibility and permeability of education pathways can help prevent ELET by removing potential obstacles to the completion of education and training programmes. This indicator focuses on policy initiatives aimed at minimising 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. The indicator also covers policies that are designed to ensure a smooth transition between education levels and programmes (especially from general education to VET programmes). It also includes policies that aim to improve the recognition of skills and qualifications, thereby helping students to progress to the next level or to re-engage in education or training if they have left the system prematurely.
Language support for students with a mother tongue other than the language of instruction can be crucial as these students are often at increased risk of early leaving. Empirically, young people from migrant backgrounds tend to be over-represented among those leaving education and training early in many European countries. Policies on language support for these students can help ensure the provision of measures for strengthening the students’ competences in the language of instruction, which are crucial in order to benefit from all the learning opportunities and to avoid falling behind.
Addressing ELET in ITE and/or in CPD is essential if teachers are to learn how to support students who are showing signs of disengagement at school, and who are therefore at risk of leaving school early. This indicator examines policies and measures for improving teachers’ understanding of the challenge of early leaving through initial teacher education (ITE) and continuing professional development (CPD). This implies increasing teachers’ awareness of the underlying causes, the main triggers and early warning signs, as well as strengthening teachers’ capacity to take action in both preventing early leaving and supporting students who are at risk. Training on ELET may also provide teachers with an opportunity to engage in peer learning and collaborate with other teachers and schools with experience in this area.
The role of education and career guidance services in preventing students from leaving education and training is widely acknowledged. This indicator analyses policies on education and career guidance, which is provided both as a compulsory part of the curriculum and by school guidance services in lower and upper secondary education. Education and career guidance provides students with information as well as support for developing their decision-making and other skills important for managing their educational and/or career choices. Guidance may also include psycho-social work or counselling to help students, in particular those at risk of leaving early, as they progress through education and training.
Support for early leavers to re-enter the education and training system. This indicator presents policies and measures that help young people who have left education and training early to re-enter the system. This may entail: policies promoting the provision of second chance education, i.e. alternative education and training pathways leading to a formal qualification; education and career guidance, which may be combined with practical skills training, one-to-one or group counselling, or similar support offered to help young people develop a vision for their careers and lives; and initiatives taking place within the context of the ‘Youth Guarantee’, which seeks to ensure that all young people under 25 get a good quality, definite offer within four months of leaving formal education or becoming unemployed, for a job, apprenticeship, traineeship or continuing education that is adapted to each individual’s need and situation.
Source: European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2019. Structural Indicators for Monitoring Education and Training Systems in Europe – 2019: Overview of major reforms since 2015. Eurydice Report. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.