General Statements and Empirical Observations
Early School Leaving (ESL) or dropping out of school is an educational issue that can be attributed to a variety of factors, such as social inequality, low financial status, the quality of cooperation and interaction between the school where students study and the family that supports them, as well as the quality of education provided by the school in terms of curriculum and teacher expertise.
A number of definitions and relevant terms have been coined to describe Early School Leaving as it is observed among students on different levels of education, attributed to a variety of reasons and factors, or approached on the basis of its duration, education level, the moment a student drops out of school etc. Generally speaking, ESL refers to the students who do not fulfil the minimum requirements for compulsory education in their country of residence. In certain cases, the same term refers to students who have not completed the course they have taken up. However, the term is also used in a broader sense as it can also refer to young men and women that have not completed their studies in the higher levels of education, i.e. it can also apply to university or college dropout rates.
All in all, it has been observed that the factors which exert significance influence on ESL can be grouped in three major categories:
- Factors that are related to the family and usually appear in bibliographical references as socio-family factors. Those include low socio-financial family status, gender, race, or nationality differences, other family members’ poor school achievement and the effect it has on students, regular changes of place of residence, inadequate or lack of support toward the student on the part of the family (e.g. limited or no parental expectations, negative disposition, indifference, unstable family, personal and social parental problems, etc).
- Factors that are related to school and the students’ experiences on and around the school premises (e.g. poor school achievement, discipline problems, school bullying and confrontations, regular changes of educational setting, etc).
- Factors that are related to the quality of education provided at school (e.g. the relevance of the school curriculum to student interests, inner motivation for school attendance, the suitability of teaching strategies and methodologies adopted and implemented by schools, etc).
Keeping the points made above in mind, ESL seems to be a complex issue that is influenced by a multitude of social, financial, and educational factors. As a result, the reasons that lie behind it and the effect it has on the students involved should be sought on a variety of levels, which renders a school’s attempt to curtail it a Herculean task. However, there are a number of curricular and extra-curricular actions that can be taken in an effort to make a positive contribution to the prevention and handling of ESL in school.
As the partner institutions that participated in the Erasmus+ Educational Program “Our School, My Future – ESL project” were all secondary schools, it is important to note that the proposals/activities that follow aim to prevent and handle ESL in secondary education, where they have been implemented and evaluated as far as their efficiency is concerned.