6.3 Preventing early leaving from education and training (ELET)
- National strategy
- Formal education: main policy measures on ELET
- Addressing ELET through non-formal and informal learning and quality youth work
- Cross-sector coordination and monitoring of ELET interventions
There is no national strategy in the Republic of Serbia dealing particularly with prevention of early leaving from upper secondary education. However, both major strategies relevant for youth, the Strategy for Development of Education in Serbia by 2020 and the National Youth Strategy 2015-2025 refer to the problem of early leaving from education and training. Special attention is dedicated to the coverage and retention of pupils and students in all education levels.
According to the Strategy for Development of Education in Serbia by 2020, reaching significantly higher number of pupils is a priority task in realizing the mission of the general and art secondary education and the long-term increase of people with tertiary education. A key policy in this direction is to enable children from poor families and children from rural areas to gain secondary education (and subsequently higher education). The Strategy aims at raising the quality and specificity of art and general secondary education. To achieve this, the Strategy proposes the following measures:
- creating support for children from poor families and children from rural areas;
- providing affirmative support measures to specific groups of pupils who are systematically excluded from this type of schooling (e.g. Roma children, children with disabilities and disabilities);
- adoption of laws on gymnasiums and art schools and corresponding by-laws, to operationalize and specify the profile of general education and define working conditions;
- raising the attractiveness of secondary education through different forms and methods of work, flexible and wide offer of teaching, extracurricular activities and modularization of the program which enables individualization of teaching and work at different difficulty levels;
- not implementing general and art programmes in mixed schools with the same teaching staff, as this undermines the specificity of work and reduces students' interest in general and art secondary education;
- development of a special document on art education from pre-school level to the university level.
Action plan further, name the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, National Educational Council of the Republic of Serbia and the Institute for Improvement of Education as responsible for strengthening the educational function of secondary schools to reduce early school leaving.
When it comes to the vocational secondary education, the Strategy envisages a system of measures to reduce the number of dropouts and name the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development as the main carriers of the actions:
- introducing a system of career guidance and counselling in schools;
- developing assistance programmes for vulnerable groups to realize inclusive principles in education;
- introducing vocational education programmes at all levels of National Qualification Framework (NQF).
- Apply methodology for monitoring and measuring early school leaving rates and monitor the number of pupils in each enrolled generation through a single information system;
- reduce the current dropout rate by 50%;
- train teachers and professional associates in each vocational secondary school for career guidance of pupils;
- develop and test different aid programs for vulnerable groups;
- ensure that students who have dropped out of secondary education receive some form of vocational education and training and obtain their first qualification;
- in sectors where there is a high demand for certain qualifications, with low student interest in enrolment and a high dropout rate, develop specific vocational education and training programs at the required qualification levels.
Similarly, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, National Educational Council of the Republic of Serbia and the Institute for Improvement of Education were responsible to:
- develop methodology for monitoring and measurement of HE system leaving;
- monitor and measure leaving of the HE system;
- develop and promote career guidance centres;
- adopt measures to reduce HE dropping out.
There were no major revisions/updates of the strategy or action plan since its introduction, however two Progress Report on The Action Plan for the Implementation of The Strategy for Education Development in Serbia by 2020 were performed by 2019:
Besides certain progress in coverage at all educational levels, the 2018 Progress Report shows that the monitoring and measuring early school leaving remains the main problem. Student records are not entirely functional and although some data may be obtained from secondary schools, they are largely unsystematic and, in a number of cases, unreliable.
The second strategic goal of the National Youth Strategy 2015-2025 (see 1.3 National youth strategy for more details)refers to youtheducation and training. Its specific goal 3 further emphasise:
- the need to develop preventive action programmes to reduce the number of early school leavers,
- the need to enhance mechanisms for practical support for young people from vulnerable education groups to meet their needs,
- the need to develop mechanisms to support young people who have dropped out of education to return to the education system and obtain a qualification.
These specific goals are to be realized in cooperation of the ministries responsible for education and for youth.
The National Youth Strategy 2015-2025 has not undergone any revisions/updates since its adoption. By the end of 2019, two evidence-based evaluations of the implementation of the National Youth Strategy have been conducted.
- The first evaluation was conducted for the implementation of the National Youth Strategy 2008-2014.
- The second evaluation was for the implementation period 2015-2017 of the Strategy active in the period 2015-2025.
The second evaluation indicate that the execution rate for most of the predicted activities is rather low. The most emphasis during the indicated period was put on developing mechanisms for practical support for young people from vulnerable education groups to meet their needs, especially through teacher and professional associates training programmes for better adaptation to the needs of young people from sensitive social groups. On the other hand, none of the activities that would contribute to the development of the support mechanisms for young people who have dropped out of education to return to the education system and obtain a qualification was realised.
Formal education: main policy measures on ELET
Strategy for Development of Education in Serbia by 2020 set the goal to reduce the dropout rate from primary education below 5% in one generation and to increase the number of children enrolling secondary school (at least 95% of those who finish primary school).
The section of the Law on the Foundations of the Education System that regulates the responsibilities of the National Education Council and the Council for Vocational and Adult Education and Training defines that these bodies are responsible for monitoring, analysing and making recommendations for reducing the dropout rates of children and students from the education system, and to propose measures education continuation of the persons who have left the system.
In 2015, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development prepared a comprehensive set of proposed indicators for monitoring the state of affairs in education based on previously defined indicators by the National Education Council in 2011. One category of indicators contains a group of 42 indicators related to the percentage of population engaged in schooling, student progress and completion within primary, secondary and tertiary education. The set of indicators was updated in 2014 to include the indicator for monitoring early school leavers. Even though this set of indicators is not officially adopted it presents a great effort of the top-level authorities to increase the number of relevant data for planning, monitoring and assessment of the educational situation, which both relevant strategies detected as high priorities.
Amendments to the Law on the Foundations of the Education System included that the school should provide additional support to children and students who are at risk of early school leaving by ensuring the development, adoption and implementation of the individual education plan. The Law in addition regulates the obligation of the school (and deadlines) to notify parents if the pupil does not attend classes, and in case of their inadequate response, also notify the local self-government and the competent social welfare service.
The Government of the Republic of Serbia as one of the measures forEmployment and Social Reform Programme – ESRP states increasing the level of education within vulnerable groups and reducing regional disparities. In order to achieve this measure, it is important to:
- Establish a system for early identification of children at increased risk of early school leaving, as well as children at risk of not being included in education (e.g. asylum seekers, children without personal documents, etc.);
- Establish, in cooperation with the relevant ministries, local governments and educational institutions, a coordinated system of prevention, intervention and compensation of early school leaving (…).
The project Combating early school leaving in Serbia through effective dropout prevention and intervention measures at the school level implemented by the Centre for Education Policy in partnership with UNICEF Serbia and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development of the Republic of Serbia aimed to contribute to the reduction of dropout and early school leaving of children and young people through establishing and implementing mechanisms for early identification of children at risk of dropout, responding and implementing effective school-level prevention and intervention measures. Throughout the project, a Dropout Prevention Model, a set of instruments for identifying students at risk, prevention and intervention at school level was developed.
As a compensation measure, a "second chance" was provided for early school leavers to return to the system and continue their education. The “Second Chance “– Systemic Development of Elementary Practice Based Adult Education in Serbiaisthe project run by theMinistry of Education and Science in the period 2011-2013 funded by the European Union Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance. The overall objective was to build a modern system of functional elementary education for adults (FEEA) in the Republic of Serbia. The project has developed an adult elementary education curriculum for three years (one cycle each year) and the programme is published in the Bylaw on Curriculum for Primary Adult Education, which is modelled on functional adult education. In addition, teachers have been trained in the implementation of this programme, and the programme was piloted in 80 primary schools in Serbia and included 4,000 students over 15 years of age with incomplete primary education or without vocational qualifications, priority being given to socially vulnerable target groups.
Addressing ELET through non-formal and informal learning and quality youth work
There are no top-level authorities’ initiatives for actions aiming at preventing and reducing ELET through non-formal or informal learning or youth work.
Cross-sector coordination and monitoring of ELET interventions
The Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development), together with the National Education Council and the Council for Vocational and Adult Education, plays a key role in the development and implementation of policies and measures aimed at reducing early school leaving in Serbia.
The Ministry of Youth and Sports is a key institution for the development and promotion of youth policy at the national level, as well as for supporting its implementation at the local level. It is a key institution for the development and implementation of the National Youth Strategy and the Career Guidance and Counselling Strategy, as well as providing information to young people on employment and volunteer work, promoting non-formal education, etc.