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One of the main challenges for all educational systems is to reduce the rate of the Early School Leavers (ESL): according to recent researches, one out of five students leaves school before completing a regular curriculum. The E.U has set the target of reducing ESL to 10% across member states by 2020. ESL is a multi-faceted and complex problem that is a result of personal, social, economic and family-related reasons: in many cases ESL is a process of progressive disengagement from education whose roots lie in early years. ESL is a central topic in the European and National educational policies because it represents an obstacle to economic growth and employment. All European States are concerned about this problem because it hampers productivity and fuels poverty and social exclusion.
The purpose of education in modern society is to prepare students for the challenges of life. For this reason rather than inculcating a set list of competencies or ideas, schools must prepare students to think critically in order to choose their careers.
In spite of different educational systems, the factors leading students to drop-out from school do not vary that much from country to country. The causes of the ineffective policies fighting this problem are the lack of comprehensive strategies that can involve different parts of the modern society starting from the school. An integrated school approach to reduce ESL is also needed: the entire community (teachers, staff, parents) must participate in approaching this problem. The teachers have a prominent role because they spend most of their working time with their students. They are aware of the problem but they need to feel supported to develop specific skills and competencies dealing with the students at risk of drop-out. A good approach to this problem should include strategies to identify these students, to manage diversity, to improve their motivation. Cooperation represents a fundamental component in teachers’ practice and professional development because it promotes reflections on practices and therefore can be very useful in order to approach this topic.
The aim of this project is sharing experiences among teachers coming from different countries, and working in different educational background, in order to find solutions and strategies that can be used in everyday school life. Sharing issues within the group implies opportunities for mutual support and for the exchange of competencies and experiences that may enrich and make the work of everyone easier. The participation of the students in the activities of the project, increases their self-sufficiency and self-esteem.
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The idea of the project came from the fact that the educational system in Greece is a controversial issue with a lot of negative points that need to be discussed. It is exam-centered, highly theoretical, teacher-centered, it favors the good students and wrongs the weak ones .
As a result ,many students leave school long before graduating. Other reasons for dropping out school could be the bad family environment or background, bullying, racism which leads to social exclusion, the student’s indifference or boredom, the long-distance from the students’ residence to the school, or even economic reasons which force students to abandon school in order to work. In times of economic crisis that Greece lives today, the phenomenon of early school leaving should be studied carefully. Similar research on other European educational systems needed to be done in order to compare the results.
The project aimed to involve- apart from teachers and students- parents, psychologists, educators and organizations in general, specialized in issues related to dropping –out school. In this way the problem was studied thoroughly and the whole community got a better insight.
The approach to achieve our objectives was active involvement of every student in the planning, implementation and evaluation processes of the project. Ensuring the effective cooperation and communication using the ICT effectively, disseminating the project results and activities by organizing competitions in local schools and by conferences for local people, meetings with local authorities and civil organizations, organizing project meetings to exchange ideas, regular evaluations by surveys, questionnaires, interviews with the students, teachers, parents and local people, involving the local people and parents to the period by open days at institutions and use of local media. We were 5 participant schools:
- (Greece- Xanthi) 2nd General Lycium of Xanthi
- (Turkey - Sasali, Cigli) Çiğli Fen Lisesi
- (Italy - Napoli) IIS Vittorio Emanuele II
- (Poland- Dąbrowa Górnicza) Queen Jadwiga Complex of Schools no 4
- (Portugal- Almada) Escola Secundária Fernão Mendes Pinto
Needless to say that the cooperation between partners was based on mutual respect for each other’s national and cultural identity. Values like tolerance, understanding, acceptance, trust and similar were necessary in order to form a partnership that would carried out activities and produced material which will help us understand better why under-achievers mainly drop out school in the European countries involved in the project. Stereotypes and prejudices were questioned and rejected through careful studying and will be replaced by notions such as equity, acceptance, and respect to diversity.
By the end of the project we believe that we have a better knowledge of the European educational systems and we are able to identify the weak points. Consequently, we could suggest some changes that are included in the website of the school or are part of this magazine. Most importantly, teachers will probably change their attitude towards students who abandon school and be more helpful since they will be further educated and guided by experts or counsellors.
All in all , by learning to discourage students from abandoning school and practically help them to graduate, wherever in Europe they live, we encourage future European citizens to learn to struggle ,in order to achieve their goals.
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- The school should be friendly for students (interesting activities, support from teachers, small class units, etc.)
- Teachers should make lessons more interesting and use materials which are useful paying attention to students in class. This can be meaningful and helpful for students to learn about the experience of daily life.
- To make school more appealing: improving the facilities of school (labs, gym, garden, etc.).
- To promote extracurricular activities taking place in the school, such as:
- School Paper , newsletter
- Painting/ cleaning/
- Sports or artistic competitions.
- Music during breaks (intervals)
- Dance workshops
- Music workshops
- Volunteer work
- To develop peer counsellors’ action
- To use the experiences of students/ adults who have already dropped out to prevent the spreading of early school leaving. It could be useful if dropouts could meet students at risk to tell them about their life after they left school.
- To get teachers proactively involved in fighting early school dropout. The teachers could be supported to develop means to increase the integration of students and the communication with them and with their parents, to engage the students in extra-curricular activities and to counsel them.
- There must be a close cooperation between the school and the family. The families should be involved in educational meetings at school:
- to learn about the students’ behaviours in puberty.
- to prevent truancy
- to get informed about students’ academic results
- Teachers should give responsibility to students in the classroom and in the school so that each student can feel that he or she is a part of the school. It is important that they feel they are relevant individuals and they are being loved and cared for in school.
- There should be extra lessons for the absent students and teachers should try to motivate these students to love school during these extra lessons.
- A special program should be made for the students under risk of dropping out school.
- To motivate teachers and students through awards and prizes.
- To encourage the local authorities and specialized NGOs to involve students from communities with a high risk of school dropout as volunteers in various support programmes (such as for the elderly or for families in need).
- To keep a record of the situation of pupils from families involved in migration.
- To promote intercultural activities to integrate these students.
- To offer extra lessons improving the communication in the language of the host country-
- To put in place a system to monitor the development of school year groups
- The school should provide financial support to students (e.g. free textbooks) and psychological support from the class tutors, teachers, educators and school institutions.
- To increase the flexibility of education – focus on practical way of teaching and give the students wide possibilities to develop their skills, hobbies. This could mean new methods of teaching or new subjects and facilities in the school.
- The students should be motivated by their family.
- The students should have the awareness of the job prospects in the future, in other words, the students need to know and feel that getting a good education means a well-paid job in the future.
- The students’ cognitive curiosity and creativity should be aroused to prepare them for changes and lifelong learning.
- To develop “preventive education” – educate students how to solve different problems.
- To visit institutions, organizations, supporting programmes which may help students to be successful.
- To organize school schedule.
- To develop projects to protect the children from child labour.
- To cooperate with different institutions to prevent prejudice against the education of female students.
- To update the content of education programmes/ curricula.
- Process focused evaluation instead of exam focused evaluation will be more helpful to students who attend universities. This will also help them to take part in extra curricular activities at school.
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remedy through innovative strategies
Some of the pedagogical strategies below may have a positive impact on dropout prevention:
- Early identification of students at risk of school failure and possible interruption of their studies
- Personalized educational and social encouragement and assistance
- Equal access to quality education for all children and young people
- Relevant and engaging curriculum
- Flexible educational pathways
- Better strategies to integrate newly arrived migrant children
- Smooth transition between different levels of education
- High quality, attractive and engaging vocational education and training
- Involvement of pupils and parents in school decision-making
- Initial and continuous in service training for education staff
- Whole school approaches
- Strong and well-developed mentoring system
- Cooperation with the world of work: providing opportunities at an early stage that allow young people to experience the world of work, for example through training in companies, for example, which could help them understand job demands and employers’ expectations. It can also raise their motivation to continue their education and training and to focus better on future career choices.
- Collaborative work with career advisors and psychologists to support students’ decisions
- Integration programmes
- Emphasis on vocational education/training in basic and secondary levels of education
- Schools with autonomy agreements established between the authority and the schools, to provide them with greater freedom to manage curricula and schedules throughout the students’ studies.
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Co-operation and communication will continue among partners. Experiences, results and suggestions concerning the project will be available at the website created specifically for the project, on the websites of participating schools, on the e-twinning platform and on the facebook page of our National Agency.
Teachers will be able to feedback and renew their teaching approaches.
Teachers involved in the project will disseminate experience and knowledge to their colleagues at local schools.
We will continue our project activities such as peer-coaching, student coaching and be a model to other schools with the good results of these activities.
We will continue to cooperate with the Education Department of University to learn new developments and approaches on “how to keep students at school and prevent early school leaving”. We will organise meetings with the counsellors and teachers of local schools in our district to share information and improve new strategies to keep students at school.
We will continue to work on improving the atmosphere of our school with the support of Local Authorities and Parents’ Association in cooperation with teachers, students and directors.
The experience with “Peer Counsellors” will be adopted and used in many different classes. New teachers and new peer counsellors will have training sessions to get prepared to start acting and the whole process will be monitored in order to improve its results. Experts on the topic “preventing early school leaving” are being invited to come to school and hold some training sessions, to guide and inspire participants. The local Teacher Training Centre is getting involved as a partner, so as to provide further knowledge on the topic and disseminate the results of the experience.