In November 2013, the Thematic Working Group on Early School Leaving (ESL) published it’s final report. Made up of policy makers, practitioners and experts from EU Member States, partner countries and key stakeholder organisations, the Working Group was set up by the European Commission to support Member States to develop and implement comprehensive policies on Early School Leaving.
Early childhood is the stage at which education can most effectively influence children’s development. The European Union therefore wants all young children to be able to access and benefit from high quality education and care. Reliable information on ECEC systems in Europe is essential in order to understand what challenges are facing European countries, what we can learn from each other, and what new solutions might be developed to meet the needs of the youngest members of society.
The Eurydice Key Data on Early Childhood Education and Care report aims to provide insights into what constitutes high quality early childhood education and care through policy-driven and internationally comparable indicators. It is published jointly with Eurostat and combines statistical data and system level information to describe the structure, organisation and funding of early childhood education and care in Europe. This is the second report on the topic, following a 2009 report that focused on tackling social and cultural inequalities through ECEC.
The main findings of the report highlight a number of issues of particular interest to policy-makers and refer readers to the specific indicators where detailed information can be found. These issues include access to ECEC; participation; governance; funding and affordability; professionalisation of staff; leadership; parental involvement; and, to conclude, the provision of targeted support for disadvantaged children.
Via European Commission
Reducing the average European rate of early school leavers to less than 10% by 2020 is one of the education headline targets of the Europe 2020 Strategy. Investment in the educational achievement of young people is essential for the employment prospects of every young person. It is important for the growth of our economy and for social cohesion, especially at a time when the current financial and economic crisis is having a serious impact on young people and their families. Investing in education helps to break the cycle of deprivation and poverty leading to the social exclusion of too many young people across Europe.
In June 2011, the Education Council adopted a Recommendation on policies to reduce early school leaving (ESL). It highlights the need for evidence-based and comprehensive policies to reduce ESL. In order to be effective, policies against ESL need to address all levels of education. They should be cross-sectoral and involve stakeholders from different policy areas such as youth, social/welfare, employment and health. They should focus on prevention, intervention and compensation:
- Prevention seeks to avoid the conditions from arising where processes leading to ESL can start.
- Intervention addresses emerging difficulties at an early stage and seeks to prevent them from leading to ESL.
- Compensation measures offer opportunities for education and training for those who have dropped out.
This approach requires a shift from implementing individual ESL measures to introducing comprehensive policies. In December 2011, a Thematic Working Group on Early School Leaving was established to help European countries implement such comprehensive policies.
The Thematic Working Group (TWG) consisted of policy makers, practitioners and experts from 27 EU Member States. Representatives from Norway, Iceland, Turkey, and from key European stakeholder organisations were also members of the group. The objective of the TWG was to support Member States design and develop comprehensive policies on ESL. To this end, the TWG collected and exchanged information on effective policies to reduce ESL. Activities included peer-learning visits to the Netherlands and France and a peer review event in Brussels in March 2013.
This report presents the main conclusions and lessons learnt by the TWG. It aims to inspire and generate the development of a comprehensive approach to ESL. The report includes a checklist as a tool for self-assessment. The checklist is for countries, regions or local authorities who are developing or implementing policies to reduce ESL. They could use it to evaluate current policies and to help identify areas for further improvement.
The following key policy messages were identified in the report as the critical conditions for successful policies against ESL.
- Ensure long-term political and financial commitment to reducing ESL and keep it high on the political agenda.
- Ensure children and young people are at the centre of all policies aimed at reducing ESL. Ensure their voices are taken into account when developing and implementing such policies.
- Develop and implement a sustainable national strategy to reduce ESL. This strategy should address all levels of education and training and encompass the right mixture of preventative, intervention and compensation measures.
- Invest in the knowledge base of ESL, through regular and timely collection of accurate data and information. Ensure that data and information on ESL is accessible and used effectively in policy development. Ensure that the monitoring and evaluation of ESL measures steers policy development.
- Ensure policy development and implementation is based on strong, long-term cooperation between national, regional/ local authorities and stakeholders, as well as between different policies, through for example establishing a coordinating body.
- Remove obstacles within the school education system that may hinder young people in completing upper secondary education. Ensure smooth transition between different levels of education. Ensure access to high quality education throughout life (including early childhood education and care), and the provision of high quality Vocational Education and Training (VET).
- Support schools to develop conducive and supportive learning environments that focus on the needs of individual pupils. Promote a curriculum that is relevant and engaging.
- Promote and support multi-professional teams in schools to address ESL.
- Support cooperation between schools, local communities, parents and pupils in school development and in initiatives to reduce ESL. Promote strong commitment from all stakeholders in efforts to reduce ESL at local levels, including local businesses.
- Promote a better understanding of ESL in initial education and continuous professional development for all school staff, especially teachers. Enable staff to provide differentiated learning support for pupils in an inclusive and individualised way.
- Strengthen guidance to ensure young people are aware of the different study options and employment prospects available to them. Ensure counselling systems provide young people with both emotional and practical support.
- Reinforce accessibility to second chance schemes for all young people. Make second chance schemes distinctive and ensure they provide a positive learning experience. Support teachers who work in second chance schemes in their specific role.
More than 60% of nine year olds in the EU are in schools which are still not digitally equipped. The European Commission today unveils ‘Opening up Education’, an action plan to tackle this and other digital problems which are hampering schools and universities from delivering high quality education and the digital skills which 90% of jobs will require by 2020. To help kick-off the initiative, the Commission today launches a new website, Open Education Europa, which will allow students, practitioners and educational institutions to share free-to-use open educational resources.
Between 50% and 80% of students in EU countries never use digital textbooks, exercise software, broadcasts/podcasts, simulations or learning games. Most teachers at primary and secondary level do not consider themselves as ‘digitally confident’ or able to teach digital skills effectively, and 70% would like more training in using ICTs. Pupils in Latvia, Lithuania and the Czech Republic are the most likely to have internet access at school (more than 90%), twice as much as in Greece and Croatia (around 45%).
Higher education also faces a digital challenge: with the number of EU students set to rise significantly in the next decade, universities need to adapt traditional teaching methods and offer a mix of face-to-face and online learning possibilities, such as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), which allow individuals toaccess education anywhere, anytime and through any device. But many universities are not ready for this change.
A joint initiative led by Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, and Neelie Kroes, Commission Vice-President, responsible for the Digital Agenda, Opening up Education focuses on three main areas:
- Creating opportunities for organisations, teachers and learners to innovate;
- Increased use of Open Educational Resources (OER), ensuring that educational materials produced with public funding are available to all; and
- Better ICT infrastructure and connectivity in schools.
“The education landscape is changing dramatically, from school to university and beyond: open technology-based education will soon be a ‘must have’, not just a ‘good-to-have’, for all ages. We need to do more to ensure that young people especially are equipped with the digital skills they need for their future. It’s not enough to understand how to use an app or program; we need youngsters who can create their own programs. Opening up Education is about opening minds to new learning methods so that our people are more employable, creative, innovative and entrepreneurial,” said Commissioner Vassiliou.
Vice-President Kroes added: “My dream is to have every classroom digital by 2020. Education must be connected to real life; it cannot be a parallel universe. Young people want to use digital technology in every aspect of life. They need digital skills to get jobs. All of our schools and universities, not just some of them, must reflect that reality.”
Initiatives linked to Opening up Education will be funded with support from Erasmus+, the new EU programme for education, training, youth and sport, and Horizon 2020, the new research and innovation programme, as well as the EU structural funds. For example, Erasmus+ will offer funding to education providers to ensure business models are adapted to technological change and to support teachers’ development through open online courses. All educational materials supported by Erasmus+ will be freely available to the public under open licences.