Arguments and thematic axes of the conference
The struggle to ensure all children and adolescents complete primary and secondary education is both a Moroccan and international priority. Finding ways to prevent students from leaving school early and ensuring they receive a quality education are important objectives in and of themselves; they also contribute to improved equity and equal opportunities, and individual and social promotion — which are fundamentals of the 2015-2030 strategic vision.
Early school leaving (sometimes known as ‘school dropout’) refers to situations in which learners do not complete a full education cycle and are not engaged in any training or ‘second chance’ educational programs. As such, early school leaving constitutes an unacceptable phenomenon, especially during the period of compulsory schooling. It undermines an inalienable right for all children and adolescents, regardless of socioeconomic status and physical and mental fitness, to complete a full cycle of basic education.
Different social, economic and educational factors help explain why students leave school early, and entail different school-based and non-school based solutions. As a key responsible party, schools must adapt and establish support mechanisms that protect, monitor and retain at-risk pupils in the education system. School systems need to adapt to the needs of students and develop supporting strategies to ensure that instruction and content are relevant and useful to all children. Many studies have shown how schools tend to reproduce existing social hierarchies (Maslow 1943, 1968, 1970; Bowles and Gintis 1976; Bourdieu 1970; DOE 2001; and Naicker 2005). For schools to meaningfully contribute to the lives of children, they need to rupture the status quo. By implementing flexible and accommodating strategies that meet the needs of diverse learners, schools can increase opportunities for social and spatial mobility. This is not a welfarist approach to poverty but rather a serious concern about the pedagogical implications of poverty. Teachers who are sympathetic towards learners and create welcoming and supporting environments help break the intergenerational transmission of poverty. Learning experiences that involve stimulation, enrichment and play can be used to compensate for previous deprivation, especially in the areas of reading, mathematics, spatial development and sensory understandings.
At the social and community level, it is necessary to create a supportive social environment that pays close attention to learners’ voices and also detects indications of distress, alienation or depression. An appropriate referral to professionals should be made after a formal assessment of risk and depression. The school must reach out to poor communities and ensure the safety and well-being of all learners. School nutrition programs should encourage malnourished learners to go to school. Schools should establish meaningful relationships with families, authorities and relevant NGOs to create a welcoming social environment. Shared procedures and practices to discourage all forms of abuse should be developed.
In the Moroccan context, the Higher Council for Education, Training and Scientific Research (HCETSR) noted key challenges facing the Moroccan education system. In response to these shortcomings, the HCETSR suggested an exhaustive list of interventions, detailed in the 2015-2030 Strategic Vision (HCETSR, 2017). The HCETSR’s recommendations focus on improving language proficiency, communication, dialogue, research and innovation capabilities, and needed labor skills – all in harmony with the national demands and religious values of society. Several important educational reforms have been initiated to address these recommendations. These include the revision of school curricula, the introduction of the Amazigh language and culture into the curricula, the pedagogical reorganization of higher education and improved reception capacities of vocational training.
Funding allocations to education in the national budget have increased to around 1/4 of the overall budget. Despite this, the Moroccan school system continues to suffer persistent weaknesses, which were highlighted in the HCETSR report. These include: the lack of cohesion and overall inefficiency of the system, problems in interfacing its different components, the system’s weak internal and external productivity and the lack of alignment between training programs and system needs. Thus, education reforms and development strategies should ensure that young people, through the consistent implementation of current global best practices, not only acquire skills and basic knowledge, which can quickly become obsolete, but also the capability to adapt, manage and address new opportunities and future challenges.
According to the analysis of the High Commission for Planning of Morocco (2014), education during childhood and adulthood is the most important source of persistent poverty and deprivation in Morocco. The findings indicate that unequal levels and access to education in Morocco (based on gender, socioeconomic status, geography, etc.) contribute to the alarming rate of students who leave school before completing a full cycle and who find themselves without qualifications in an already highly competitive job market. This early school-leaving rate is estimated at almost 8% according to the HCETSR report (2019). And, as many have noted, the young unemployed and excluded are more likely to fall prey to crime, violence, extremism, terrorism, radicalism, and other forms of social deviance.
The conference “Leaving school early: Causes, consequences and preventive policies” aims:
- To identify the characteristics/ specifications of students at risk of leaving school early and to determinate proximal causes;
- To present the best practices and policies of prevention and intervention to fight against early school leaving;
- To compare international policies that effectively address early school leaving;
- To measure and evaluate the impact of early school leaving on the sustainable development of a community, region or country;
- To exchange information about effective national and international practices in the fight against early school leaving;
- To identify and evaluate the conditions for successful implementation of policies that enable children from poor, disadvantaged and/or marginalized communities to complete school.
Communications from various multidisciplinary fields can be proposed according to the following axes of intervention:
Axis 1. Reasons for early school leaving and identification of learners at risk of stopping out
Axis 2. Teacher and educator training practices related to reducing early school leaving
Axis 3. Prevention and intervention policies to combat early school leaving
Axis 4. Role of civil society in ensuring children complete a full cycle of primary and secondary education
Axis 5. Sustainable development and school, educational and territorial inequalities
Axis 6. Conditions for implementing policies to prevent early school leaving
Axis 7: Integration of NICTs to fight against early school leaving
Axis 8: Theoretical approaches in relation to early leaving school and school dropout