Early leaving from education and training (ELET) is a serious issue in many EU countries and has attracted the attention of many researchers, policy-makers and educators. Although the situation varies across countries and the underlying reasons for students leaving early are highly individual, the process leading up to it includes a number of common elements: learning difficulties, socio-economic problems, or a lack of motivation, guidance or support.
Early leaving is highly challenging, not only for young people, but also for societies. For many, early leaving education or training will lead to reduced opportunities in the labour market and an increased likelihood of unemployment, poverty, health problems and reduced participation in political, social and cultural activities. Furthermore, these negative consequences have an impact on the next generation and may perpetuate the occurrence of early leaving. Youth unemployment in the EU is currently running at 20% and ELET contributes directly to it as employability depends strongly on the level of qualification achieved.
In order to understand why young people leave education and training early, it is moreover important to see ELET not only as a status or educational outcome but as a process of disengagement that occurs over time (Lyche, 2010). Chronic absenteeism and exclusion from school can be among the symptoms, or may even be the cause of students leaving early (Neild et al., 2007). However, there are more signs which indicate that students may be at risk. Warning signs may occur as early as in primary school and may be related to individual factors (e.g. educational performance, behaviour, attitudes) or to factors within individuals’ families, their schools, and communities. Understanding early leaving from education and training as a complex process, detecting early signals and identifying students who are at risk of leaving education and training early is therefore a prerequisite for developing targeted and effective measures to prevent it.
Continuing training for VET school staff should be thus enriched with training curriculums tailored to enable trainers to acquire key competencies regarding the early detection of students that are in risk and on strategies to prevent dropouts in VET. At present, the training programmes in the field are not adequate to meet current needs of VET trainers working in schools in decentralized regions. By working with the target groups, this project will produce a tailor made training material that is grounded in the VET school staff needs, and also grounded in the factors that leading to ELET.
The project RELiVET seeks through national research, the use of EU, national and regional statistic reports, data from public educational authorities, and interviews with education professionals and students, to identify the factors that lead to early leaving from education and training in the geographical regions that the programme will cover. By identifying the real current factors that lead to ELET in VET schools, it will also proceed to the implementation of a comparative study on survey findings among participating countries. The conduction of the comparative study, according to the research outcomes, will provide the basis upon which the training curriculum for teachers and scientific staff on effective strategies that increase graduation rates will be designed. The project will provide an international and competitive training programme, specially designed for VET teachers, relevant professionals and families, based on international experiences.
The project contributes to the development of further training of VET staff – a necessity not covered in many EU countries- and the general development and upgrading of Vocational Educational and Training, as it will provide new supportive strategies which prevent ELET and keep students in education. The training seminar will support VET professionals in developing knowledge and competencies on strategies that help distinguish students at risk of ELET, prevent ELET and thus reduce the number of the students that abandon VET.
The project addresses the constantly changing educational aspects of VET and contributes to the increase of attainment levels, through its emphasis on lifelong learning and the value of education on individual development and social cohesion. The project RELiVET supports through its activities and outcomes, the successful completion of studies in initial and continuing VET – focusing on areas with high ELET national levels- and it will do so by taking into account the factors that influence VET trainees when deciding to abandon studies. The programme aims to create and promote the appropriate conditions, which help students overcome these factors and lead to graduation, certification and better career opportunities.
Introduction and Context
The Early School Leaving (ESL) or Early Leaving from Education and Training (ELET), has been defined as “the percentage of youth 18-24 years old who did not finalize the upper-secondary education (corresponding to the 8 grade) and who are not following any other educational path or are not enrolled in any other vocational training”. “Early leavers from education and training” is a Europe 2020 Indicators, part of the Sustainable Development Indicators, according to EUROSTAT.
The factors related to early leaving school are closely linked with other educational and social issues. The young people who leave early education and training are, usually, migrant students, students coming from marginalized areas, or disadvantaged families, often both socially and economically. By leaving early from school, they lose the possibility to gain the necessary qualifications to help them succeed in life. Consequently, it is essential to recognize that although early school leaving is a problem on the surface of education and training systems, its root causes are embedded in wider social and political contexts.
At the individual level, the consequences of ELET affect people throughout their lives and reduce their chances of participating in the social, cultural and economic dimensions of society. ELET increase the individual risk of unemployment, poverty and social exclusion. It affects their lifetime earnings, their welfare and health, and their children. Also, it reduces their children’s chances of succeeding at school.
In 2009, 52% of early school leavers in the EU were unemployed or outside the labour market. Even when they work, they earn less, they tend to be in precarious jobs and are more dependent on social assistance. They participate less in lifelong learning and therefore in re-training. Their educational disadvantage can create a growing
handicap for them (Tackling early school leaving: A key contribution to the Europe 2020 Agenda, Brussels, 31.1.2011 COM(2011) 18 final).
Several signs are indicating that students may be at risk. Warning signs can still occur from primary school and may be related to individual factors (e.g. educational performance, behavior, attitudes), or factors within individuals’ families, their schools and communities. Understanding the ELET phenomenon as a complex process, detecting early signs and identifying students at risk of leaving education and training early is, therefore, a prerequisite for developing targeted and effective measures to prevent it.
Understanding the role of VET in reducing school drop out involves analysing the phenomenon of school dropout and the potential of VET to attract, retain and reintegrate young people into education and training. Both aspects are innovative and challenging areas of investigation. Cedefop estimates based on the OECD-PIAAC, that VET can play a key role in facilitating alternative pathways and re-entry into education and training.
There is no common measure against of early leaving from vocational education and training (ELVET) currently available across Europe. But there is evidence of insufficient investment in VET, especially in relation to the general education sector, even if the VET sector in most countries hosts a much larger share of students from disadvantaged backgrounds (European Commission/ EACEA/Eurydice/Cedefop,2014). The fact that VET attracts students from disadvantaged backgrounds suggests the importance of investing in the field and improving the skills and capabilities of VET teachers and trainers to identify students at risk.
Cedefop, after a consultation of the European and international specific literature from 2010 onwards, presents a map of measures to address ELVET phenomenon, according to the timing of the intervention: prevention, intervention and compensation.
As can be seen, preventative measures are predominant and among them, there is also the need to train the teachers and all those involved to reduce ELVET.
The RELiVET project aims to offer such an opportunity, by providing an international and competitive training programme, specially designed for VET teachers, professionals, and families, that to meet current needs and to provide new and modern supportive strategies and tools which prevent and reduce early leaving from educational and vocational training system. The curriculum of this course will be based on a needs analysis developed in all consortium countries.
The needs analysis is carried out through two types of researches:
- a background research, in fact, a desktop and internet research, and
- a small-scale research, based on answers to the questionnaires completed by the teachers, educators or scientific staff in VET, followed by a feedback analysis of the questionnaires.
Reducing Early Leaving in VET
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