Thematic Working Group on Early School Leaving

The Thematic Working Group (TWG) on Early School Leaving (ESL) met in Brussels on June 25th and 26th. The group consists of delegates from EU member-states – representatives from Ministries of Education and experts – as well as international experts (OECD, EURYDICE). In addition several European NGOs (ETUCE, OBESSU, EPA, COFACE) are represented. EPA’s delegate is former President Johannes Theiner who was given the mandate to continue some of his activities.
The meeting was dedicated to sum up the facts found and work on a report. As the European Commission recently decided to change the working methodology some TWGs will be reorganised. It was announced that in August a new structure will be proposed by the DG EAC to make the work more effective and bring together related topics.
The report under construction was intended to be a mid-term report and will now mark the closing of this TWG. It has to be pointed out that only three out of six identified topics had been discussed and elaborated up to now. The field “Parents and Families” which is most relevant for EPA had been postponed.
There were discussions about the report’s structure which will deal with Governance in one chapter and Cross-Sectoral Cooperation in the following one. Some of the representatives did not see a reason to discuss these issues in two chapters.
On behalf of the stakeholders in the system Johannes Theiner claimed to have a clear statement on the need for “… participation of organisations representing parents, students and teachers on all levels policy-discussions and decisions”. He also argued in favour of dealing with issues in- and outside the school system separately clarifying that parents, students and teachers (sometimes called school-partners) are the “stakeholders” in the system and governance needs to include their participatory rights and responsibilities.
Trans- or Cross-sectoral co-operation was less an issue of vertical/subsidiary structures but required new strategies for collaboration (co-ordination and co-operation) between hierarchic structures like the health- and the social sector with the education system. This included fields of decisive powers, financial resources and active contribution. Co-operative strategies for planning, monitoring and evaluation have to be developed. The term “stakeholders” has to be analysed differently with respect to the players in the different segments.
Overall finalising this report is still a big challenge. Some key topics have not yet been discussed and the debate on the bare structure revealed that there is an unbalanced diversity of models that can hardly be depicted in a single paper.
EPA has discussed the topic in a sequence of workshops (2011, 2012 and 2013). Pierre Marraisse, head of unit A at the Directorate General Education And Culture (EAC) invited EPA to submit a comprised contribution from all its member states to complement the state reports on ESL with the concerns and experiences of parents.
EPA-members will receive all relevant information available from the working group together with a questionnaire or a similar tool to compile a “European Parents’ Report on ESL”

Johannes Theiner

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