How to tackle Early School Leaving in the EU

published: 02-05-2019

On May 23rd Europe will be voting on a new European Parliament. But what does this actually mean to us as citizens? Well, as in many EU countries, the EU has two law making levels. Basically, the Commission proposes and drafts laws, and the European Parliament and Council of Europe vote on them.

The European Parliament is made up of national politicians, who are then grouped according to EU party lines to vote on EU proposals. They, together with the Council of Europe, represent the national interests of the Member States.

Panteia, a Dutch research bureau, has a strong track record on conducting research for the European Commission and European Parliament. In honour of the upcoming Parliamentary elections, we would like to give a taste of what kind of projects we have conducted in the past:

2019, European Parliament

The European Parliament frequently requests studies on EU policy and on the status quo in Member States. One such study was on tackling early school leaving in the EU. As early school leaving (ESL), has long term effects on a child or youth’s educational, employment, and health prospects, the EU strives to help Member States reduce this rate in their countries. Upon request of  the European Parliament’s CULTURE committee, Panteia conducted an update study on how early school leaving has changed in the EU since 2011, what causes early school leaving, and what types of policy approaches help to reduce it in a country..

This study involved a literature review of EU and national policy and academic literature to establish the current rates of ESL in Europe, the causes of ESL, which policies work well to reduce ESL, and to explore how public investment helps reduce this rate in a country. Several brief national level case studies were developed, and several expert interviews were held at EU and national level. The main findings were as follows:

  • Most countries have reduced ESL since 2011. Good performers include Portugal, reducing ESL by 10.4% between 2011 and 2017, Spain (8%), Greece (6.9%), and Ireland (5.7%).
  • ESL is a complex process, caused by individual level causes (such as gender, socio-economic background, etc.), system level causes ( such as the teaching approaches used at school, school environment, etc.), and national level causes (such as the labour market, and social inclusion policies). These drivers interact with each other: the same drivers can have different impact on ESL across countries.

The infographic can be seen here in large format

  • An important note is that across levels of causes, the experience of social exclusion and (dis)engagement for a youth are are key aspects influencing ESL.
  • In many cases, Member States do not have specific ESL strategies, but address ESL indirectly as part of broader educational, labour market, or social inclusion policies. Policies in place are often divided into three types: preventative, intervention, and reintegration.
  • Establishing the impact of a single policy is difficult for ESL. However, a mix of all three policy types, which focus on local needs in a community, and use targeted investment in public programmes and policies, appear to work best in helping to reduce ESL.
  • The relationship between public investment in education and reducing early school leaving is not immediately evident, no linear correlation appears. This is perhaps not so surprising given that drivers from other levels and policy fields also contribute to ESL. It is therefore not so much a question of how much you spend, but rather, what you spend on it. More efficient and targeted spending [INVALID]d on needs of pupils in a country, could be a good starting point for approaching public expenditure to reduce ESL.

For further information, the study can be found here

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