Lifelong Learning Programme

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.
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Lifelong Learning Project - School Inclusion - Preventing Early School Leaving

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EARLY SCHOOL LEAVING - Lessons from research for policy makers


Roger Dale


European Commission


European Commission, 2010






This report was written by Professor Roger Dale, member of an independent expert team that supported the European Commission (NESSE), and then presented to the European Commission in 2010. It provides an all-round overview on the problem of early school leaving in European countries, focusing on the starting up of this phenomenon, its causes and possible reasons. The author uses a technical definition for early school leavers, that is the part of the population in between 18 and 24 years old with no more than a lower secondary school license and not in further education or training. This problem is presented as a European widespread phenomenon, whose highest rates are nevertheless to be found on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. In a long-term perspective the main consequence for students who drops out from school too early is basically a question of gaining less in terms of income and well-being in the future. Moreover, the early school leavers are expected to be “non-active citizens” in terms of participation in social public life. In the end, the scholastic drop out represents with the passing of time a tremendous waste in human, social and economic capital that turns to be a loss for the whole society. The factors that can be seen as the most relevant causes of this phenomenon are both individual and institutional. The early school leavers are not a homogeneous group, but inside it we can find some common features: families social and economic disadvantages, low interest in the studies, health problems and migrant minorities. The possible remedies listed in this report are divided into three categories: the structural preventative strategies, the student focused strategies and the school wide interventions. The first plan is about the social composition of the classroom; the second ones are thought to assist students considered “at risk” of dropping out and the third strategy intervenes on the organization of the educational system and of the labour market. These preventative programs should not only reduce the early school leaving problem, but would also represent a success for the society itself.


The most interesting thing that can be noticed from this report is the peculiar approach through which the problem of early school leaving is addressed. The author considers this phenomenon as a process, not as an event. This process mixes-up various elements, such as the psychology of the student, his past life and the events occurring as soon as he enters the public life. One of the main results reached by this analysis is that this process begins before the child starts school. Then lots of factors are to be considered responsible for the choice of dropping out. This study attempts to drive the social actors and the institutions, in particular those dealing with children health and care, into action, so as to give effective response to this problem. The strategies proposed by the author allow the reader to see the early school leaving problem in a wider perspective, because they show how many factors should be revised in order to reduce this phenomenon. Another feature of the issue that each person should take into account is the enormous waste of time and money due to the wrong way of approaching this problem: it has social and economic costs that not only make the students’ lives worse, but that have to be carried on by the civil society. This fact is a stimulating excuse that could wise up to the seriousness of the scholastic dropping out problem.


Sara Ciabattini


Pixel Association


Project Assistant

Login Area

15 November 2012

Stay@School at the Future of Education Conference

The Stay@School projet will be presented at the third edition of the “Future of Education” international conference, held in Florence, Italy, on 13 - 14 June 2013. Over 250 participants from all over the world will attend the conference. The conference participants belong to the sectors of higher education, school education, vocational education and training as well as adult education, therefore representing all of the target groups of the Stay@School project.

School Inclusion - Copyright 2008 - This project has been funded with support from the European Commission

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