Addressed problem: Providing choices, not closing doors
- Flexible education systems enable learners to move within and across education, training and employment. Flexibility means that young people can adapt their learning pathway as they go along, to suit their interests and abilities.
In systems that lack flexibility, it is difficult for young people to make transitions from one learning pathway to another. They may find that they are restricted to their original choice, even if they have realised that this choice isn’t right for them. This can be a factor leading them to dropping out.
Repetition of learning can also be demotivating for young people. Learners who are able to switch courses, but are required to start from the beginning, can be discouraged by the need to repeat content they have already covered in their previous course.
Flexibility in the delivery and timing of learning opportunities means that young people who have other demands on their time can continue to work towards their chosen qualification, or can return to learning if they have already dropped out.
Young people facing barriers to learning or who have had to interrupt their education may benefit from an extended period to complete their studies, the possibility to attend courses on a part-time basis, or an alternative teaching method (e.g. online learning).
- The systematic use of grade retention as a means to reduce the educational delay of low-achieving pupils, and of suspension or expulsion from school as disciplinary measures for students with behavioural problems, leads to more early leaving.
Students who repeat grades have higher chances of dropping out, generally do not improve performance, and have a more negative attitude towards school than non-repeaters. Suspended students are more likely to drop out, to misbehave again, and to have poor academic performance. Also, there are strong links between school exclusion and social exclusion.
- Permeability means that young people can progress to programmes at higher level and take forward their long-term career, regardless of the pathway they have chosen.
If systems are not permeable, it can be difficult for young people to progress, for example from Vocational Education and Training (VET) to higher education (HE). This can be a barrier to long-term career progression. It can also reinforce negative perceptions of VET as a ‘second class’ option to general education.
People who have dropped out of education before completing lower or upper secondary education can find it hard to return. They may not meet the entry requirements for available courses, or there can be a lack of lower secondary programmes for adults.