6.3 Preventing early leaving from education and training (ELET)
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Official document, timeframe, scope and contents
The early school leaving has been defined as the percentage of youth 18-24 years old who did not finalize the upper-secondary education (corresponding to the 8th grade) and who are not following any other educational path or are not enrolled in any other vocational training. Over 17% of the Romanian pupils are in this situation, Romania being one of the countries with the highest rates when it comes to early school leaving. The country target is set to reduce ELET to 11.3% by 2020.
The pupils are abandoning their studies for a wide range of social and economic reasons. The major factor that determines their decision is the social exclusion phenomenon they are facing. But not completing their studies, their chances to get a job are reduced and even if able to enter the labour market, they would have to accept low paid jobs. Every year, over 12.000 pupils are leaving school in their primary school years while 28.000 pupils are not completing their upper-secondary studies.
The groups that are mostly exposed to the risk of ELET are the minorities and other marginalized groups, pupils in the rural areas, pupils who are not able to pass their studies and have to repeat a class, youth and children with special educational needs.
Preventing early leaving from education and training (ELET) had been defined as crucial to achieving key European and national targets. Improving citizens' skills and reducing early school leaving continues to be key priorities for Romania. Romania supports the principle of equal opportunities in education, regardless of individual characteristics. In this regard, the country's challenge is to improve educational performance among all children in order to meet the requirements of a knowledge-based economy.
The groups targeted mainly by this Strategy include: (i) children and young people who will be in the 18-24 age group in 2020; (ii) children and young people from families with low socio-economic status (poor); (iii) children and young people from rural areas; and (iv) Roma children and young people and other marginalized or under-represented groups. Any strategy that fails to prioritize support for these groups at risk, compromising the goal of reducing ELET. However, the Strategy also aims to support interventions targeting as well other groups than the main ones. The prioritization of support for the different target groups is left to those professionals and stakeholders who will ensure the implementation of the Strategy and, more importantly, the sustainability of its results in the future. Together, they are the partners that will ensure the success of the Strategy. At central and regional level, members of this group include The Ministry of Education professionals, school inspectors and initial training providers, such as university professors. At the local level, this group includes teachers, school directors, counselors and mediators, parents, social workers, instructors and tutors, representatives of NGOs and community members.
The main guiding principles of the Strategy are the following:
- an integrated answer and a coherent governmental strategy to reduce ELET, strategy that perfectly integrates the social policies, the youth policies and family policies.
- An educational answer coordinated and comprehensive and in line with the LLL strategies
- Evidence based policies
- Sustainable financing – granting long term initiatives
- Learning from the national and international good practices
- Identifying a set of good practices at the regional level and learning from these practices.
The short-term objective of the strategy is to ‘implement an effective policy of prevention, intervention and compensation - policy to address the root causes of ELET, focusing on young people 11-17 years old.’
The medium-term objective: ‘By 2020, the reduction to a maximum of 11.3% of the 18-24 year olds who have completed at most the lower secondary education and are not enrolled in any form of further education or training.’
The long-term objective: ‘Contributing to smart and inclusive growth in Romania by reducing the number of people at risk of unemployment, poverty and social exclusion.’
Strategic pillars and representative programs
The main programs and measures proposed to achieve the objectives of this strategy are grouped into four (4) strategic pillars:
- Pillar 1: Ensuring the access to education and quality education for all children (measures aimed at increasing access to primary education and supporting schools in communities with fewer opportunities)
- Pillar 2: Ensuring the completion of compulsory education by all children (remedial education programs, student counselling)
- Pillar 3: Reintegration of the early school leavers into the education system (Second Chance Program)
- Pillar 4: Developing adequate institutional support (strengthening the administrative capacity)
Government authority responsible for the implementation
At the central, regional and local level, a number of key institutions are involved in the formulation and implementation of ELET policies. At the central level, the Ministry of Education is the main actor in both the formulation and implementation of ELET policies, through two of the major directorates of its structure, namely:
- Directorate-General for Pre-Higher Education (DGEIP), which has a key role to play in defining policy guidelines, programming and monitoring at national level;
- Directorate General for School Management and Schools’ Network (DGMRS), which monitors and evaluates the management of the inspectorates, schools and the Teaching Staff Houses at the pre-university level.
There are also public institutions of national interest working under the Ministry of Education, including the following:
- The Romanian Agency for Quality Assurance in Pre-Higher Education (ARACIP)
- The National Center for the Development of Vocational and Technical Education (CNDIPT)
- former Institute of Educational Sciences (since November 2019 part of the National Evaluation Centre)
Other ministries play an important role in addressing multiple factors influencing ELETL: the Ministry of Labour through the County Payments and Social Inspection Agencies (AJPIS)
At the local county and level other institutions are involved, according to the Strategy:
- The counties’ schools inspectorates representing the Ministry of Education at the local level and ensuring the implementation of national policies such as initiatives on prevention, intervention and compensation activities related to the reduction of ELET ; ensuring systematic monitoring on the agreed action plans and proposed outcomes, and providing support to schools in their initiative to prevent ELET.
- The Teachers’ Houses - providing in-service training for teachers in the pre-university education system. Each county has such an institution that works closely with County School Inspectorate, with schools and teachers in that county when it comes to reducing ELET.
- County Resource and Educational Assistance Centers (CJRAE) - coordinating, monitoring and evaluating the educational services provided by pre-university education institutions, based on methodological and scientific criteria; participating in teacher training and evaluating the education specialists and school mediators offering educational services within these centers.
- Schools are the main entity responsible for implementing education programs, working directly with pupils and parents.
- Non-governmental organizations – such as Roma Education Fund Romania, Save the Children, Romani-Criss, World Vision România
- Local government authorities
Monitoring/assessment/evaluation of the implementation of the strategy
The monitoring and evaluation process has been designed around the concept of management based on results as the main working principles. The permanent progress’ monitoring of the main representative programmes is stipulated in the Strategy. The monitoring measures are based on annual planned activities. A progress report and planning the activities for the next year are set as targets.
In the monitoring process, the Ministry of Education cooperates with other 6 ministries of governmental agencies: the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Work and Social Justice, the Ministry of European Funds, the Management Authority and the National Institute of Statistics. Moreover, other stakeholders are to be involved with the M&E processes: schools, the counties’ school inspectorates, the parents’ organizations, the business sector and the NGOs.
Regarding M&E, no results are publicly available in December.
No updates have been made to the current strategy by December 2021.
Measures in general formal education
In formal education, the strategy planned to reduce early school leaving are the subject of the entire institutional development policy. The aim is to a positive learning environment, to enhance quality and innovation at the pedagogical level, to enhance the quality and training of teachers in order to properly approach the social and cultural diversity, and to develop effective strategies to combat violence in schools. The interventions include:
- Transforming schools into learning communities based on an image of shared institutional development for all beneficiaries, using the experience and knowledge of all of them by creating a comfortable environment that inspire and encourage freedom of thought, motivating young people to continue their education and training.
- Establishing systems to identify risk, providing the possibility to take prompt action before the problems occur even before the pupils begin to distance themselves from school, absent or abandon it.
- A close relationship with parents and other relevant non-school organizations such as community services in the area, representing immigrants or minorities, sports and cultural associations, employers or civil society organizations, which makes it easier to find holistic solutions to help those students in risk groups and mediating external support, psychologists, social workers, community services, or cultural associations. The process can be facilitated by the community mediators who should be able to support the communication with parents and children in these risk groups.
- Continuously supporting and supporting the efforts made by teachers in their work with pupils in risk groups, a basic condition for the effectiveness of the measures taken at the institution level. Pedagogy courses as well as further training courses for teachers and school administration staff are designed to help them address the issue of classroom diversity and to support pupils from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, leading to solving any difficult situations that may arise in the teaching process.
Measures in vocational education and training (VET)
The main objective of the Strategy is related to contributing to the attractiveness, inclusion, quality and relevance of vocational and technical education improved proposed measure to enhance the vocational and technical education system through reform curricula, teachers’ training and management consolidation through stronger and creative links with the potential employers and the labour market.
Activities planed are:
- Curricula revision and revised and upgraded qualifications with the participation of the employment sector
- Providing training programs for school principals, teachers, trainers and company tutors to better respond to the needs of the labor market;
- Providing support for practice internships and create workshop facilities for school education and training
The activities are in line with:
- The Strategy for National Competitiveness, a strategy Promoting the knowledge economy and research, in terms of orientation towards the development of new technology applications based on models in the natural world and providing education and training to meet local job demand and implementing a flexible and innovative teaching system to create a balance between skills and competencies –
- The National Employment Strategy in 2020
- The Strategic Vision for Promoting Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction
- The Strategic Framework for Lifelong Learning
- The Strategic Framework for Tertiary Education
Specific target groups identified in the youth population
Main target groups are, according to the Strategy:
- Target group 1: Children and young people aged 18-24 in 2020. In order to achieve the target of reducing the ELET to 11.3% by 2020, the strategy needs to address the immediate needs of the ones who will be 18-24 years old in 2020. According to official population prognosis (this age group includes 1,505,796 people. Given that the ELET rate is maintained at 17.4% then about 262.008 of the group will be early school leavers by 2020. To reach the desired target of 11.3% in 2020, this number can not be more than 170. Of these two figures it is about 92,000 people, representing the minimum number of 11-17 years that the strategy should be able to support, to avoid them being people who leave before completing their studies.
- Target group 2: Children and young people in families with low socioeconomic status. The learning outcomes of pupils from poor families remain far behind the outcomes of pupils in wealthier families, and their access to high school education and beyond is limited. Measures to support students in families with low socio-economic status will therefore contribute to the success of the overall policies and main measures suggested in this strategy. Regional and even county differences will require personalizing the implementation of the policy measures recommended in this strategy. There are regional differences due to the fact that poverty is very concentrated in some regions (Northeast, Southeast, Southwest), and in this case more comprehensive solutions are needed to compensate the discrepancies between the different regions, especially with regard to resources (both at central and local level).
- Target group 3: Children and young people in rural areas - Another key target group refers to young people and children in rural areas. Rural areas remain behind urban areas in terms of overall school results. The actions needed to reduce poverty in rural areas are transversal and go beyond the limits of the education sector. Important investments will be needed to improve access to and quality of education and reduce early school leaving. Limited access to quality infrastructure and human resources (especially school principals and teachers) is far more evident in vocational and technical education. The ELET strategy can not therefore be addressed in particularly, but rather it should complement other key national priorities: easier access to labour market, investment in VET structures etc.
- Target group 4: Roma population and other marginalized and underrepresented groups - The under-representation of the Roma population in all educational fields will be addressed through the prevention, intervention and compensation measures proposed in the strategy. Particular attention will be paid to increasing rates of enrolment of Roma children in early childhood education and care. Ministry of Education estimates that in the preschool age group of 3-5 years, where the enrolment rate is generally 77%, the total number of Roma children enrolled represents only 32%. Solutions aimed at improving the situation of this target group respond to a wide variety of situations: supporting communities with a high proportion of Roma; addressing the needs of Roma in urban areas.
Among other groups at risk, the strategy underlines the importance of education, training and social integration of children with special educational needs. The main objective of the proposed measures will be to strengthen the reforms introduced after 1998, focusing on the enrolment of as many students as possible in mainstream education . In this respect, the different programs will consider improving and implementing the specific curriculum, programs, manuals, technologies and techniques designed according to the type or degree of disability diagnosed. The strategy will also focus on improving the funding of children with special educational needs to provide the necessary resources, support services, tailored transport facilities, access technologies and assistive devices and other types of specific programs.
In order to encourage the school participation and to reduce the early school leaving rate, the Ministry of Education, in line with the legislative documents and with the national strategies, developed series of projects and initiatives:
- In 2020-2021 it continued the traditional programmes: Money for Higschool, the Professional Schoolarship programme (targeting pupils that are part of VET schools), the Programme Euro 200 (for the acquisition of IT equipment) or the Hot Meal programme.
- Implemented CRED project and over 55.000 teachers benefited from training on inclusion and inclusive schools settings.
- Developed the legislative framework required for the “School after School programme”. The "School after School" (SDS) program is a complementary program to the compulsory school program, which offers formal and non-formal learning opportunities, for the consolidation of skills, remedial learning and accelerated learning through educational, recreational and leisure activities and addresses both students from primary education, as well as from secondary education students. According to the newly adopted legislation, pupils can benefit from the programme until the end of the secondary education level (the 8th grade).
Description of the policy/programme/project/initiative
Addressing ELET through non-formal and informal learning and quality youth work were only organized by NGOs and the identified ones benefit of and were implemented with the support of ESF – European Social Fund (e.g: as in Campulung) or EEA Grants.
Source of public funding
No public funding had been allocated specificly for ELET through non-formal and informal learning or youth work, although projects funded by the Ministry of Youth and Sports through its youth programmes can support these type of activities. However, there is not a clear statistics of these projects by their objectives, in order to be presented in this way.
Multi-agency partnerships - Monitoring and evaluations
In the monitoring process, the Ministry of Education cooperates with other 6 ministries of governmental agencies: the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, the Ministry of European Funds, the Management Authority for the Operational Programme On Human Capital, the National Institute of Statistics. Moreover, other stakeholders are to be involved with the M&E processes: schools, the counties school inspectorates, the parents’ organizations, the business sector and the NGOs.
Links with the implementation of the national Youth Guarantee
In July 2017, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection launched the Youth Guarantee Implementation Plan 2017-2020, a strategic document tackling youth employment and continuing the measures and programs implemented through the Youth Guarantee Implementation Plan 2014-2015. Particular attention is paid to subgroups that face difficult access, such as adolescent mothers, juvenile delinquents, young caregivers, young people with disabilities, young people with cognitive impairment (autism) and young people who have dropped out of school. For them, the mere existence of registration services at the SPO is not enough, but additional effort is needed to involve them in training and retraining programs as their interest or ability to actively engage in a job search, and in maintaining it is very low. Once registered, youth would benefit of initial training and information services, being introduced to the opportunities that they can access in the field of education, training, employment or entrepreneurship. For example, the ones who did not obtain a diploma, they can access programmes such as The Second Chance, programme put in place by the Ministry of Education or can enroll themselves in a vocational education programme. They will also be made aware of the current labor market situation and existing opportunities, tailored to qualifications, levels of education, as well as the risks and chances of employment of young people with a low level of education and / or qualification (e.g the risk of school dropout). As part of "case management", there is also a process to monitor the progress of the young person both during and after involvement in a program of active measures.