This research paper from CEDEFOP (the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) was released in December last year. Entitled “Stemming the tide: tackling early leaving from vocational education and training in times of crises” its publication is timely given recent concerns in Australia about the poor metrics related to VET qualification completions.

Not that early leaving is a new issue, though. Completion rates have been a long-standing issue in the sector.

Why be concerned about early leaving?

The report argues that early leaving from education and training is “a source of major social concern.” Its prevention has been a strategic objective in the EU for decades, “as low levels of education and low skills can have a negative impact not only on citizens’ social and professional inclusion but on the whole economy and society.”

In addition, “individuals cannot reap the benefits of further education studies even though

advantages are manifold, not only financially but also in other areas.” The report points out that:

“On average, individuals who stay longer in education have higher job satisfaction, take better informed decisions for their health and social life, and increase their non-cognitive skills.”

Issues with early leaving

The first issue highlighted in the report is having a clear idea and definition of what early leaving entails. A second issue is gathering consistent and useful information about its extent and contributing factors. If these data are gathered effectively interventions can be planned and monitored, and those at risk of early leaving identified so that they can receive appropriate support and help before they might choose to leave. Both quantitative and qualitative data are needed.

The survey conducted found the top 4 reasons for dropping out were, in order, due to:

  1. low overall education achievement and attendance
  2. health and wellbeing issues
  3. a lack of family engagement and support, and finally
  4. a lack of or insufficient guidance to support their choices.

CEDEFOP has also found in earlier work that the following main reasons for not

completing a formal education programme included:

  • financial reasons
  • a preference to work
  • reasons linked to the education programme itself
  • own illness or disability
  • care responsibilities
  • other family reasons, and
  • other personal reasons.

Reasons for discontinuing are also reported in the Australian VET student outcomes survey, for example, which we cover in in this issue.

COVID also played a part, with VET institutions closing and much learning moving online. This contributed to early leaving.

It was important, the study found, to monitor learner participation in this circumstance. In addition, providing psychological and mental health support was important during institutional closures. Other support included providing training in digital skills

and competences to VET learners “to facilitate their participation in online learning.” Some countries reported “that they provided free internet connection and necessary equipment to facilitate learners’ access to online learning.”

In most of the countries in the study, VET teachers and trainers were also provided with access to free equipment and internet connection required to offer distance learning during institutional closures. “They were also offered training on how to use digital tools and platforms, and to create digital teaching content.” In some countries VET teachers and trainers “were well informed on privacy issues, copyright, and data protection to implement distance learning.”

Some potentially useful resources to look at

The report refers to a couple of resources that readers may find useful.  The first is a toolkit for tackling early leaving in VET.

The second is one concerned with empowering NEETs – that is, those  ‘Not in Education, Employment or Training’ by offering “a platform of intervention approaches, good practices

and interactive tools designed for both policy-makers and VET teachers and trainers.”