The overall picture of early school leaving, and in particular of school drop-outs, throughout Italy has for years been the subject of attention and concrete action to stem a particularly critical phenomenon. A close look at the trend in early school leavers from education and training shows a steady decline in the drop-out rate over the last decade, as confirmed by 2019 data. The European Commission's Education and Training 2020 Monitoring Report shows that Italy's early school leaving rate is still among the highest in the EU, especially in the south and among foreign-born youth. The percentage of young people in the 18-24 age group leaving education and training early was 13.5 % in 2019, down from 14.5 % in 2018, confirming the downward trend. While below the national target of 16 %, the early school leaving rate remains well above the EU average of 10.2 % and is a considerable distance from the EU 2020 benchmark of 10 %. The rates vary considerably between regions, from 9.6 % in the North-East to 16.7 % in the South. Boys are more likely than girls to leave school early (15,4 % compared to 11,3 %). The school drop-out rate for 18-24 year olds born abroad is 32,5 %, almost three times higher than for those born in Italy (11,3 %) and considerably higher than the EU average of 22,2 %. To combat early school leaving, central and peripheral school administrations, regions and local authorities have intervened in recent years with dedicated and systemic measures, allocating resources and promoting guidelines, analyses and actions. The Ministry of Education has set up a steering committee to combat early school leaving and, through specific guidelines, considered it necessary to take effective administrative and educational actions to minimise the factors that lead to early school leaving, particularly in certain Italian regions where the economic and social gaps that lead to cultural deprivation and, consequently, higher drop-out and abandonment rates are more evident. In order to combat early school leaving and drop-out, it is deemed necessary to allocate economic resources aimed not only at creating more suitable learning environments, both in terms of school structure and technological equipment, but also at launching methodological experiments able to renew subject teaching, making it more responsive to young people's learning styles, along with strengthening basic learning, the firm acquisition of which is an indispensable condition for continuing studies.
Education: main measures to prevent early school leaving
In the framework of the National Operational Programme For Schools - Skills and Learning Environment 2014-2020, resources amounting to 2.8 billion euro have been allocated with more than 52,343 projects financed throughout the country in favour of 8,000 schools for the training of more than 2 million 392 thousand students, teachers and adults. The Ministry of Education financed 1,600 projects to combat factors related to school drop-outs in the area of social inclusion and combating hardship in particularly disadvantaged areas. 1,273 projects regarded social integration and reception to specifically counter school drop-out. These projects involved all the regions of Italy, from the less developed to transition regions to the more developed. An investment in line with the EU strategy for smart, sustainable, inclusive growth and the implementation of social economic cohesion of territories. The Intervention Plan for reducing territorial gaps in education was presented in 2020. It is aimed at schools in the regions of Calabria, Campania, Puglia, Sardegna and Sicilia and sees the implementation of measures to improve learning outcomes. Initially, it will be undertaken with the Campania and Sicily regions and will then be promoted and disseminated to the other regions. The plan is defined in close collaboration with the Regional School Offices, local authorities and research bodies (INVALSI, INDIRE) and includes, as a preliminary phase, the promotion of a comparison with the Regional School Offices and the competent Councillors of the regions concerned in order to analyse the data and the interventions currently in the field; a more detailed analysis of the situation with the data available to INVALSI; integrate the analysis with the data available to the Ministry of Education and the local authorities; coordinate the projects underway and in development; agree on a number of process and result objectives in the medium term. The FaSI - Fare Scuola Insieme research report analyses databases containing good practices against early school leaving based on prevention, intervention and compensation strategies.
Combating early school leaving through non-formal and informal education and youth work
In the last years, the adoption of non-formal or informal educational strategies to combat early school leaving has been the subject of many studies by training, research and third sector organisations involved in this field. Similarly, initiatives have been produced in different contexts. These include the Doors - Open Doors to Desire Project as an OppOrtunity for Social Regeneration (led by CIES Onlus) created to combat educational poverty among minors, which has placed art education at the centre of its work with young people to promote a greater synergy between formal and non-formal education. Among the initiatives that focus on the non-formal and informal level, there is the Fuoriclasse program, promoted by the Education Department of Save the Children Italy, in collaboration with the Giovanni Agnelli Foundation, and in partnership with Christian Workers Association - ACLI Lombardia, Kreattiva Association, Libera Association, E.D.I. Onlus, Abele Group, and Panda Avventure. Inspired by Article 28 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Fuoriclasse promotes motivation to study (motivational workshops) and the possibility of bridging learning gaps (study support workshops) through innovative methodologies that combine formal education activities with non-formal activities (advisory councils and school camps) to be carried out both during and outside school hours, not only in school buildings but also in other educational contexts. The intervention includes an integrated approach, involving all the stakeholders concerned by the phenomenon: students, teachers and families. The pilot project was launched in the 2012/13 school year in the cities of Naples, Crotone and Scalea (CS). The following year, the cities of Milano and Bari were added (2013/14) and in the school year 2014/15 Turin. Within three years (2012/2015), two two-year implementation periods were completed in five cities (Crotone, Scalea, Naples, Bari, Milano).
Intersectoral coordination and monitoring of interventions to prevent early school leaving
Regarding the development of networks against early school leaving, and the promotion of innovative monitoring and intervention actions, an INDIRE working group has drawn up a detailed Monitoring Report and analysis of territorial intervention prototypes (2016). On a regional and local basis, the monitoring of interventions to prevent early school leaving has been carried out. Examples are the initiatives of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region and the municipality of Milan. It is also worth noting the monitoring activities of some third sector actors, such as those of the Observatory on Educational Poverty, in collaboration with Con i Bambini - social enterprise and Fondazione Openpolis, within the framework of the Fund to fight juvenile educational poverty.