On January 2011, the European Commission published a communication on tackling Early School Leaving
(ESL), alongside the Council's recommendations on policies to reduce school leaving. ESL is an important issue to COFACE because the family environment is often identified as an important factor determining school achievement. As the Commission and the Council rightly point out, a lower socio-economic background or lower parental educational achievement are amongst the main factors when trying to explain ESL rates.
COFACE welcomes the calls for action and the programme drafted by the Commission and the Council aiming at tackling ESL. Several proposals are noteworthy such as: (1) provision of high-quality early childhood education and care services; (2) systemic language support and support in general for children with a migrant background; (3) active desegregation policy in schools; (4) permeability of educational pathways; (5) increased participation and co-operation of parents; (6) financial support for families conditionally linked to school attendance; and finally, (7) mainstreaming of ESL in all relevant policies at an EU level.
At the same time, COFACE wishes to underline a few shortcomings of these recommendations.
Firstly, the call for mainstreaming of ESL in all EU policies is -up to now at least- simply wishful thinking: the EU has barely advanced on reconciliation of work and family life or made progress on the maternity leave directive, not to mention the issue of paternity leave.
Secondly, when the Council recommends "support and empowerment of teachers" to enhance their competences, this often translates into more burdensome training and responsibilities for teachers without any improvement of their salary or a formal recognition of their increased workload. In many countries, teacher's council meetings or remedial lessons are not considered part of normal "working hours".
Thirdly, extra-curricular activities should not only be developed outside of school (as the Council paper suggests) but also within the school. Indeed, the integration of leisure activities in schools contributes to creating a "positive" image of the school environment and prevents ESL since pupils have more incentives to go to school.
Finally, we note that many other supportive measures need to be targeted at parents, such as Life Long Learning (LLL) programmes or fostering parental participation in social and cultural life. Family organisations contribute to this active participation and LLL by publishing magazines addressing common parenting issues, organising training sessions, discussion groups and other events for parents. Any successful strategy to tackle ESL will first have to support and involve civil society organisation.
Published on 04 Sep 2011
Updated on 23 Jun 2015