23 Aug 2018


As societies become more knowledge-based, schools must evolve to ensure the information and skills needs of students. This is why the key focus of twenty-first century learning is adaptation to keep pace with the demand and expectations of the society.

Because of this demand, new learning emphasizes the need to radically transform the purpose of schools and expectations of what students should learn in the classroom. Approaches to measuring school success must also therefore be re-evaluated. The future is commonly viewed as something to be managed and planned for rather than something to be actively shaped.

Youth Disengagement and Early School Leaving

Youths that have grown up in a world of computers, mobile phones and the internet, which have fundamentally shaped their behaviour and will continue to do so. Likewise, worldwide, youth face complex social, cultural and economic challenges that constitute obstacles to their education.

One in five high-school students in the United States of America for example drop out of school each year. A range of factors has been found to increase the risk of dropping out, including low levels of school engagement, apathy about attending school and high rates of absenteeism. Students who drop out are more likely to receive assistance, be unemployed, homeless, and also experience higher numbers of early pregnancy and substance abuse problems. Overall, high-school dropout rate is declining, however, dropout rates for learners with special needs are even higher. Furthermore, high-school dropouts are not eligible for jobs. It is unsurprising that efforts are underway in many states to decrease the dropout rate by fundamentally rethinking the way school works (NDPC, 2005).

Early school leaving (ESL) among youth creates countless hardships for individuals and vast costs for economies and welfare states. Studies on the long-term effects of youth unemployment report that exclusion from the labour market can have long-term negative effects on future employment prospects

Young people who prematurely leave school and training are certain to lack skills and qualifications and face serious, persistent problems in the labour market. Students aged 18- 24 years left school without completing secondary education (European Commission, 2013).

How Early School Leaving Affects Economic Growth

Early school leaving is a significant obstacle to economic growth. It reduces productivity and competitiveness and induces poverty, unemployment and social exclusion. Leaving school before completing upper secondary education is often the outcome of a progressive and cumulative process of disengagement.

Early school leaving also has significant societal and individual consequences. Europe’s average school leaving rate for migrant first-generation youth is double that of natives. In some European countries, more than 40 per cent of migrant youth are early school leavers and the risk of ESL is especially high for disadvantaged minorities, including Roma youth (Davidson et al., 2009; Redecker et al., 2011; TWG on ESL, 2013). Data show that some groups of young people are more at risk than others: disadvantaged students show consistently lower levels of engagement and boys are more likely to leave school prematurely than girls to see how school contributes to their learning, and 60 per cent did not list learning as the reason they attend school (Price, 2013). About 98 per cent of US students admitted feeling bored at school at least some of the time, two-thirds feel bored every day and 17 per cent say they are bored every lesson (Yazzie-Mintz, 2010). Estimates of 14-16 year-olds in the United Kingdom who define themselves as ‘disengaged’ vary from 20 per cent to 33 per cent. These students are predominately white male and from disadvantaged backgrounds, and are most likely to be truant (Price, 2013). In Canada, levels of participation and academic engagement fall steadily from Grade 6 to Grade 12, while intellectual engagement (personal, psychological and cognitive investment in learning) falls during the middle school years and remains at a low level (slightly above 30 per cent) throughout secondary school.

Source: UIS. 2012. Opportunities Lost: The Impact of Grade Repetition and Early School Leaving.

UNESCO Global Education Digest 2012. Montreal, Canada, UNESCO Institute for Statistics.


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