Early School Leaving: A challenge that needs to be addressed

The online event “Early School Leaving: A challenge for the future,” organized by Canary Wharf Consulting on the 12th of November 2021, brought together more than 50 professionals from the educational community to discuss the issue of Early School Leaving and the work that

has been done as part of the “APPLE - eArly warning Platform to Prevent youth from dropping out of schooL Education” initiative.

Early School Leaving remains a challenge for many EU member states, despite the significant developments that have been made regarding school integration of young people with vulnerable background. According to Eurostat, in 2020, 9.9 % of 18–24-year-olds in the EU had completed at most a lower secondary education and were not in further education or training (early leavers). 11.8 % of young men and 8.0 % of young women in the EU were early leavers from education and training.

During the online event, participants discussed the issue and how we can tackle it, while Canary presented the work that has been done and the materials produced throughout the APPLE project, as well as the online platform that was developed for educators.

Epaminondas Koutavelis, Project Manager at Canary Wharf Consulting, talked about the capacity building seminars that were organized as part of the project to enrich educators’ knowledge in the field and help them acquire new skills, as well as the guide that was developed. He also presented the Online Early Warning Platform that enables educators to apply innovative pedagogical methods and identify youth at risk of dropping out easier.

Research indicates that youngsters who give up on education are often those with personal or family issues, those who have special needs or learning disabilities, those who come from a fragile social economic situation, or do not have easy access to school, as well as those who have a different sexual orientation, religion, language, ethnicity or culture, refugees and migrants, said Kathryn Lukey-Coutsocostas, Writer, Educator and Community Activist. “All of these youngsters are at least one minority; to society they are the other and they frequently feel like ‘the other’,” she added.

Studies have shown that encouraging students’ sense of belonging in the school can help them fit in socially and academically, and prevent dropping out, especially in the case of marginalised students. To foster a positive state of mind in the others, a feeling of well-being, belonging and thus engagement, we must understand the difference between the assimilation and the integration of minorities, Mrs. Lukey-Coutsocostas said, highlighting the importance of respecting and accepting different people and cultures. “Teachers can play and must play a major role in preventing early school leaving,” however, everyone - from the students themselves and their families, to teachers, school psychologists and religious leaders - must understand and support the “others” to help build a better, integrated world, she said.

Bryan Walsh, Employability Manager at Merseyside Expanding Horizons, talked about how his organization is working with people who experience isolation and social exclusion – like youngsters who have left home and may be staying in friends’ houses – to support them, empower them and foster their employability. When we talk to people that have been damaged in the past, he said, we can’t roll back in the years and take away what’s happened in their lives before, but what we can do is help them deal with it. For example, Merseyside Expanding Horizons is helping people with dyslexia or other learning difficulties and encourages them to realize that this condition does not define who they are and that they have a lot of things to offer to employers, Mr. Walsh said.

Irene Psachoulia, Intercultural Educator, focused on a very disadvantaged group: migrants and refugees, and talked about the reasons that they have a higher risk of dropping out of school and how we can prevent this. According to some statistics that Mrs. Psachoulia shared, 91% of children around the world attend primary school when the rate for refugee children is only 50%. The situation is even more difficult in secondary education: 84% of adolescents attend secondary school, while the rate for refugee adolescents is only 22%.

“School attendance is a major problem for migrant and refugee children, but at the same time it is very important to enhance school attendance as much as possible because education is a decisive factor to theirs and their families’ integration in the host country,” she said. “The key to a successful integration is education.”

 

A few words about the APPLE

The event “Early School Leaving: A challenge for the future” was organized within the APPLE project, which aims to tackle Early School Leaving. By developing a guide for educators and an online early warning platform, consisting of key scientific material and tools, APPLE will equip educators, schools, educational organizations and authorities with the necessary tools to identify youth at risk of dropping-out and halt Early School Leaving.

The project is implemented in Greece, the United Kingdom, Romania, North Macedonia, Spain, and Portugal by the following six organizations: KMOP – Social Action and Innovation Centre (Greece), Canary Wharf Consulting (UK), Instalofi Levante (Spain), Centrul Pentru Promovarea Invatarii Permanente Timisoara Asociatia (Romania), Aproximar - Cooperativa de Solidariedade Social (Portugal), Family and Childcare Center – branch in Skopje (North Macedonia).

For more information, you can visit the project’s website: www.appleproject.eu.

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