In June 2014, the French Ministry of Education published a joint report assessing the policy for combating early school-leaving. This study was the outcome of all stakeholders (Ministries of Education, Employment, city, regional and local authorities, voluntary organisations and users) involved in preventing 150 000 students dropping out of education each year without qualifications.

Main lessons from the report are:
  • unclear objectives: the report stresses that the objectives set ’are not always clear, neither to the beneficiaries, nor to the institutions’.While the European Commission has set a strategy for reducing early school-leaving to 10% in 2020, the French Ministry of Education is committed to bringing a specific number of young dropouts back into mainstream education (20 000 in 2013, 25 000 in 2014).The report concludes that ’indicators and management tools need to be stabilised’;
  • policy ’under construction’ with limited effects: the report states that all targets for combating dropout fail to address the real issue, asthey ’focus primarily on cure rather than on prevention’. With more qualitative goals, it would be possible to concentrate on ’responsiveness of the system in identifying and tackling school dropouts’ and on long-term tracking of young people when they ’reenter’ the education system;
  • weak management: with ’embryonic’ national management, ’the fight against educational dropout fails to achieve its full range, in particular due to fragmentation’ between ’frameworks dedicated to wider interministerial policies, in which school dropout is only one issue’.As for local governance, the report notes that ’absence of clear national interministerial direction is felt by educational authorities and departments:the situation varies quite widely from one region to another’;
  • inconsistent educational policies: the report calls for more partnership between actors and better links between institutions. It also recommends greater coherence between combating early school-leaving and other educational policies, such aseducational success, school time organisation, digital education tools and school programmes themselves;
  • hopes for ’well-identified support’: the report notes that regions have gained a coordinating role, ’liaising with educational authorities as regards the remedial aspect’. This is due to the law on vocational training of 5 March 2014 which gives the regions ’jurisdiction for people who have left the school system, in organising measures to combat illiteracy and training courses in key competences’.However, the report specifies that, at national level, central government remains responsible for the ’system of collecting and disseminating data’.
The report calls for construction of an integrated policy.’We need to join forces to offer every individual prospects for the future. France cannot leave almost one in five youngsters by the wayside, or allow career prospects to be determined by social factors.’

The report constitutes only the first stage in assessment of early school-leaver policies in France. Work is continuing with development of scenarios and an action plan.

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ReferNet France