Early school leaving

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The transition from school to work has changed quite radically in Europe during recent decades. Educational participation has grown everywhere, although in different ways in countries with different educational systems and traditions. The increasing educational level of the population has caused an inflation of education and strengthened the connection between educational qualifications and labour market outcomes in many countries.

Early school leaving is a relative concept depending on the educational realities in different transition regimes. While in Europe, relatively few young people leave school at 16, the EU has defined those 18-24 year olds as early school leavers who do not have a post-compulsory qualification and are not in such education or training.

In the political discussion, these early school leavers are seen as being at a great risk of social exclusion and they have been named as one of the special target groups of educational and labour market policy in Europe. Research from different countries shows that dropping out of educational system at the age of 16 not only predicts a weak educational and labour market position in adulthood, but is also connected with poor health and inactive citizenship. In many countries, early school leavers tend to come from disadvantaged social backgrounds while in terms of gender young men are being over-represented.

Currently, the problem of dropout and early school leaving presents a major test for education and training systems and their capacity to deal with diversity among pupils and students everywhere in Europe. Strategies for encouraging low achievers and other potential early school leavers to remain in school, however, vary across countries.

In the GOETE project, the phenomenon of early school leaving is a key to the dimensions of access and to and coping with education.


Dale, Roger & Jones, Peter (2009) Early school leaving: lessons from research for policy & practice. Nesse report. Download: www.nesse.fr.

Lamb, S., Markussen, E., Sandberg, N. & Polesel, J. (eds.) (2010) International studies of school completion and dropout: research, theory and policy. Springer (In Press).

Müller, W. & Gangl, M. (eds.) (2003) Transitions from education to work in Europe. The integration oof youth into EU labour markets. Oxford: University Press.

Vanttaja, M. & Järvinen, T. (2006) The young outsiders: the later life-courses of ‘drop-out youths’. International Journal of Lifelong Education 25 (2), pp. 173-184.

Walther, Andreas & Pohl, Axel (eds.) (2005) Thematic Study on Policy Measures concerning Disadvantaged Youth. Final Report. Download: http://ec.europa.eu/employment_social/social_inclusion/docs/youth_study_en.pdf.

(Tero Järvinen & Andreas Walther)