Early school leaving (ESL), is a growing severe problem in Europe which has long-term effects on economic growth, societal developments and individuals. The future of Europe depends on young people’s success both in working life and in society. Dropouts have hence become a major obstacle in these respects.
Combating ESL demands a deep insight of the whole cause and effect process, which is also essential to develop comprehensive policies focusing on the entire chain (prevention, intervention and compensation) in order to achieve sustainable results. This is why the AER has created a Working Group that is part of a broad partnership from different countries and cultures that studies the above-mentioned chain in the framework of the ERASMUS+ Project “Joint Efforts to Combat School Dropouts” JET-CD.
This project’s cross-sectoral collaboration focus has made it a very valuable platform to exchange good practices in the path towards finding a solution to this issue. One of the good practices shared within the JET-CD project on the occasion of a visit to Ålsta Folk High School, in Västernorrland, tackles the issue of low self-esteem in young people who have dropped out from school.
Due to today’s increasing number of high school dropouts, the Swedish Ålsta Folk High School and the Employment Service created a course called “Study Motivational Course” (“SMF”) which is a sort of novitiate where the student can study for 3 months without any student loan. The overall object is to decrease long-term unemployment by giving young people a chance to complete their elementary education in order to prepare for higher education, higher vocational education, and/or to improve the chance to get a job. Since many of the students that have dropped out share previous bad school experiences, this kind of novitiate prevents them from a second drop-out and another failure.
Ms. Jenny Runa, teacher at Ålsta Folk High School, explains: “there is a variety of students and of reasons to why they’re at our school. One could say that the only thing that students do have in common is that they haven’t completed their elementary or secondary education and also that a majority of them share different degrees of previous failures and negative school experiences.”
To regain power and control over one’s life is a challenge that demands a lot of hard work but the results are often amazing. This is why working with the participants’ self-esteem by helping them set individual goals while they also participate in the planning of the courses, is the foundation of the course.
After the 3 months period at SMF, a majority of the students chose to continue their studies at Ålsta, which is a natural step forward since they’re already familiar with the environment and have established relations with a few of the teachers and other participants. Some others turn to other forms of education, and a few chose to postpone their plans to study. “If this last one is the case, we try to help that person to go over some other alternatives”, Ms. Runa explains.