Often, education is only one among many challenges in young people’s lives. Some early leavers and learners at risk of early leaving have health, psychosocial, legal, or housing problems, among other issues.
Substance abuse, chronic disease, bullying, or an unintended pregnancy are common reasons for dropping out of education and training. Poor housing conditions can limit a young person’s possibilities to study at home, while also affecting their health and ability to learn. Family responsibilities, such as taking care of siblings, leave young people little time to study and to attend education and training. Financial issues in the family often drive young people to drop out from school in favour of a precarious job.
Additionally, the rising of the COVID-19 pandemic as a global health issue, has presented unique challenges to most learning contexts, including VET programmes. Lockdown and social distancing measures implemented in numerous countries led to continuous interruptions and to a remodulation of learning methods and practices. The global health crisis amplified and reinforced economic, digital and social inequalities that many VET students and their families were already facing, increasing the difficulties of the most vulnerable learners and their risk of dropping out.
Learning environments should focus on the well-being of all students, taking into account specific needs and difficulties and providing targeted support. In the case of refugee students fleeing from countries at war (e.g. Ukrainian refugee students), schools can be zones of protection where psychosocial and mental health issues are addressed. To develop healthy relationships in their new setting, a close collaboration between education, health and social services is necessary.
Multiple challenges require multifaceted solutions. Different professionals and services need to coordinate to offer targeted, needs-based support.