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Keeping kids in school - 02/02/2011

Shadow figures of students with bags © iStock

Better access to early-childhood education, help for truants and poor performers, and "second chance" schools should cut the EU drop-out rate to less than 10% by 2020.

Today, some six million young people drop out of school each year – about 14% of all pupils. They are more likely to end up unemployed, poor or otherwise marginalised.

Early school leavers are broadly defined as 18 to 24 year-olds who have left school with a lower secondary education or less.

Beyond the cost to individuals, early school leaving hinders economic growth and competitiveness: high-tech modern economies need skilled workers, and drop outs are more likely to claim social benefits, putting pressure on state resources.

The EU’s plan for tackling early school leaving aims to reduce the average drop-out rate to below 10% by 2020. It urges member countries to devise policies that cover the whole education cycle – removing the triggers of early school leaving, nipping emerging problems in the bud and giving a second chance to young people who come to regret their decision. The plan focuses on three areas:

  • prevention
    Equal access to high-quality early childhood education should be improved. Measures should be introduced that ensure all children can take part in the classroom, such as language support for children of immigrants.
  • intervention
    Warning signs such as truancy or poor performance should be met with tutoring or mentoring support, and cooperation with parents should be stepped up.
  • compensation
    Students who drop out should be given the chance to gain the qualifications they miss out on at a later stage. ‘Second chance’ schools should provide smaller classes as well as more personalised and flexible teaching methods in comparison with mainstream schools.

Cutting the number of young people who leave education early is one of the five key targets of the Europe 2020 strategy to boost growth and create jobs.

The Commission has also set up a high-level group on literacy . The 11-strong team of specialists will examine the causes of low reading and writing skills and present policy proposals in 2012 to combat the problem.

More on education in the EU

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