The causes and consequences of an early departure from the education system are complex. Along with specific problems such as learning difficulties or having to repeat a school year, it has been found that school dropouts are primarily driven by surrounding economic and social conditions, including in the home.
As MIUR reports, early school leaving in Italy is more likely to occur in the most disadvantaged regions.
As for the consequences, dropouts face a double-sided obstacle: on one side, the economic difficulty of finding stable, skilled and fairly compensated employment; and on the other side, social exclusion and inequality.
Trends in the European Union and the Balkans
In one of its reports, the Openpolis foundation has stressed that school dropouts have an unequal impact at both the European and national level. Dropout rates are higher in southern European countries, and again higher in southern Italy than in the rest of the country, as well as in the outskirts of large cities.
The EU’s Europa 2020 strategy targets an early school leaving rate of no higher than 10 percent by the end of the year. This parameter, measured by the “early leavers from education” indicator, determines the percentage of people between 18 and 24 who have attained at maximum a middle school diploma.
With the dropout rate falling to 10.3 percent in 2019, the EU is, on average, close to reaching its target. With regard to gender, a thematic factsheet produced by the European Commission in October 2017 reports that girls already reached the target in 2014.
Looking at Italy and the Balkans, former Yugoslav countries have clearly outperformed Italy and Albania in this domain. In 2018 Albania had an early school leaving rate of 17.4 percent, while Italy had a rate of 14.5 percent.
Croatia has the lowest early school leaving rate in both the Balkans and the EU, with 3.3 percent in 2018 and just three percent in 2019. Slovenia and Greece are also well below the European average, with 4.6 and 4.1 percent respectively. However, Europe’s “education information network” Eurydice reports that in Greece a large gap divides the low dropout rates in urban centres and the much higher rates in rural areas.
While Italy’s performance improved by one percentage point in 2019, Umbria, Abruzzo, Lazio and Basilicata all saw their dropout rates rise. The situation is still dramatic in parts of the south such as Sicily (22.4 percent), Calabria (19 percent) and Puglia (17.9 percent).
Past and future inequality
Across Europe, school dropouts are most often male, minorities, born of foreign parents, and especially born in a different country (second generation immigrants generally fare better).