Symposium 1: Tacking Early School Leaving in Europe: a statiscal investigation of risk and protective factors
Chairs : Neil Kaye & Alessio D’Angelo, Middlesex University Discussant: Paul Downes, St. Patrick's College, Drumcondra, Dublin City University
Early School Leaving (ESL), as defined by the EU, refers to young people aged between 18 and 24, who have attained no higher than lower secondary education and who are not currently receiving any education or training. Inadequate qualifications and professional skills can have severe consequences for the young people involved, but are also associated with high societal and economic costs. Hence, the reduction of national levels of ESL has been identified as an important target in the European Union’s Lisbon Agenda (2000) and, more recently, in the ‘Education & Training 2020’ strategic framework.
The body of academic work discussing the causes of Early School Leaving and the categories of young people most at risk is substantial (e.g. Coleman, 1966; Bourdieu and Passeron 1977; Swadener and Lubeck 1995; Driessen 2001; Yuval-Davis 2010). Personal characteristics including socio-economic status or being non-native speakers, as well as individual inclinations and skills, are widely accepted as playing an important role. However these need to be placed and analysed within a broader context of social structures and interactions, including the family, the school, the local community and the ‘systemic’ level (e.g. Reay 2004; NESSE 2010; Lamb 2011). The complex interplay of all these dimensions affects not just the risk of ESL but, more generally, levels of school engagement, motivations, aspirations and life pathways.
This symposium offers an opportunity to present and discuss findings of a large-scale survey which, for the first time, has attempted to collect, analyse and compare large scale quantitative data across a number of different countries in order to systematically test and further explore some of the well-established theories about risk and protective factors in Early School Leaving.
The survey forms part of a wider project - ‘Reducing Early School Leaving in the EU’ (RESL.eu, www.resl-eu.org, financed by the EU commission FP7, 2013-2018) - which employs a mixed-methods longitudinal design to investigate the processes that influence a pupil’s decision to leave school or training early and to identify best practices to tackle ESL.
The first stage of quantitative data collection took place in the school year 2013/2014 and comprised a survey of more than 19,000 young people currently in schools or colleges in fourteen urban sites across Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
The survey captured a wide range of variables, including socio-economic characteristics, family background, education history, social networks, school environment and individual subjective perceptions. The data has then been aggregated through statistical modelling, with the development of a number of composite indicators of key underlying dimensions such as school engagement, aspirations, parental support and teacher support.
A follow-up of the survey will take place in the school year 2015/2016, adding a longitudinal dimension to the data-set and allowing the researchers to test hypotheses on the educational and work trajectories of the participants.
In relation to the first wave of the survey, the symposium presented and discussed: 1) the methodology and theoretical underpinning, with a discussion of the potential and limitations of large scale, cross-country quantitative surveys; 2) findings from the survey, including descriptive statistics and advanced statistical models, both at a national level and from an international comparative perspective; 3) a number of national case studies focusing on specific themes, such as protective factors, aspirations, the impact of the institutional context and of socio-economic environment and the role of cultural diversity.
This symposium also offered an opportunity to discuss the further development of quantitative-methods research on ESL, both at national and international level, as well as ways of integrating and triangulating this with the insights emerging from other research approaches.