Tackling school drop-out rates – and improving results

The Puglia region of Italy aims to raise levels of education and training in order to improve the confidence, life chances and future employability of its children and young people. One of the key tasks is to stop children leaving school too early in a region which has higher drop-out rates than the national average.

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The project aims to decrease the school drop-out rate and improve educational attainment.  © Regione Puglia The project aims to decrease the school drop-out rate and improve educational attainment. © Regione Puglia

" Diritti a Scuola ensured the development of a new learning experience. The students didn’t attend traditional lectures, instead they got involved in active lessons where they were the protagonists. The teaching team helped students to improve their communication skills and together they helped create a very positive learning environment. "

Felicia Positò, Headmaster, School ’T. Fiore’, Bari, Italy

The ‘Diritti a scuola’ project used a preventative approach to keep children in school, with a set of actions targeted mainly at primary school students and those completing their first two years of secondary education. Throughout the project, a high priority was given to helping children with disabilities and youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds. Interventions were particularly focused on the schools with the highest drop-out rates.

New teaching services

The project secured more than EUR 75 million from the ESF to help deliver two main actions: to improve the study of linguistics and science in primary schools; and to develop the teaching of Italian and mathematics in secondary schools. In addition to these mainstream activities, Diritti a scuola offered counselling, educational and vocational guidance, and intercultural mediation to students and their families. Particular attention was paid to providing these services to poorer students and those from migrant communities.

Headteachers, along with permanent and part-time teachers were all involved in delivering the new services and monitoring the progress of children. Ensuring stronger collaboration between full and part-time teachers has been key to delivering the project in a seamless fashion. Finding better ways to work together has, for example, provided scope to organise students into different groups according to their learning abilities. Plus, interventions have been integrated into the schools’ yearly planning, which has helped to upgrade language and science teaching in general.

Improving educational attainment

The project is already assisting efforts to keep more children in school and is playing its part in improving educational attainment across the region. The rate of school drop-outs in Puglia has decreased from 30.3 % in 2004 to 19.5 % in 2011 (the national average is 17 %). The percentage of 15 year-old students with limited reading capacities was reduced to 16.7 % in 2012, which is below the national target of 20 %. Meanwhile, the number of 15 year-olds with higher reading skills has significantly improved in Puglia over the past few years, growing from 4.2 % in 2009 to 6.1 % in 2012.

Dirriti a scuola’s Help Desk, which was established to deliver counselling and information services, has proved to be hugely popular. More than 50 000 students (about 30 % of the student body in the project schools) and 10 000 families have used its services. In addition, numerous migrant students and their parents have profited from the Help Desk’s services, particularly its cultural mediation, which is helping to tackle issues surrounding social exclusion and integration.

The project can also claim to have had a positive impact on the wider school system. It has contributed to improving teaching in general and strengthening relationships between teachers and children. In turn, providing struggling students with extra help to improve their basic skills has increased their motivation to learn, which is central to why so many have changed their attitudes to school attendance.


Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “Diritti a scuola” is EUR 140 485 130, of which the EU’s European Social Fund is contributing EUR 75 234 327 from the Operational Programme “Puglia” for the 2007 to 2013 programming period.


Draft date

12/10/2015