SPECIAL VOCATIONAL TRAINING COURSES
FOR SCHOOL DROPOUTS: THE
CASE OF GREECE
Panayiotis Rousseas, Vassilia Vretakou
of a survey type research showed that each year about 15,000 students
drop out of lower secondary education schools, before completing compulsory
education. Compulsory education in Greece does not contain a vocational
training component and, consequently, these young people are inducted
into the world of work without employable skills. The Organisation for
Vocational Education and Training commissioned a study to identify the
training needs of school dropouts, necessary for the design of special
training courses for them. This paper presents some of the findings
of the study and lays out the basic framework, which may be used to
conceptualize the design of special training courses addressing the
needs of school dropouts.
During the last
two decades we have witnessed profound economic and technological changes
which have had a dramatic impact on labour markets. Large and small
enterpises, in their struggle to maintain a competitive edge in the
rapidly changing global markets, make broader use of flexible employment
structures. As a result they seek highly qualified employees, who are
able to adjust quickly to changes and are eager to improve their performance
throughout their working life (Rifkin, 1995). On the other hand,
participation of unskilled and semi-skilled workers is decreasing steadily (Enquete-Kommission, 1989). The trend is expected to continue in
this direction, which means that the demand for unskilled workers will
be reduced dramatically in the near future (IAB, 1988). The effect
of these developments on school dropouts is evident. Leaving school
without any vocational qualifications ensures the prospect of long term
unemployment , marginalisation and, eventually, social exclusion.
education and training systems offer a second chance to dropouts. Compulsory
education graduates always have access to vocational education and training
opportunities which lead to national qualifications, but there is little
or no provision in the formal system for dropouts. The consequences
are dramatic. Dropout rates in the European Union are far from insignificant.
On average they approach the 12% level in compulsory education (See
Diagram). In addition, 20%, of young people in the age group 16-24
years have never received a vocational qualification after finishing
compulsory schooling. About 20 million school-age young people in the
European Union lack minimum education credentials (Baltas, 1995). The impact of this statistic is manifested in the White Paper for Education
and Training, in which, confronting social exclusion of young people
takes priority and becomes one of EU's most important goals (White
In Greece, the
Organisation for Vocational Education and Training, which supervises
the National System of Vocational Education and Training (OEEK), took
the decision to make vocational training provisions for school dropouts.
Similar provisions are being planned by the Manpower Employment Organisation,
which is supervising apprenticeship training programs in Greece. To
this end, OEEK commissioned a research team at the Pedagogical Institute
of the Ministry of Education to conduct a national survey focusing on
the training needs of lower secondary education (Gymnasium) dropouts.
Some of the findings of this study are presented in this paper, especially
those which are pertinent to the design of special vocational courses
for school dropouts. In addition, a framework is layed out, based on
the qualitative findings of the research, which may be used to structure
training courses addressing the special needs of school dropouts. The
Greek experience hopefully will be valuable to researchers and policy
makers in other countries with similar conditions, in their own efforts
to find solutions and formulate policies which will provide training
opportunities for school dropouts.
Survey on Gymnasium
This survey commenced
in 1994 and was conducted in two phases:
A' PHASE: A census was carried out (from May through September 1994) to
establish the Gymnasium dropout-rate. The method used was the "cohort
dropout approach". With this method, which uses school administration
files to record the progress of an entering cohort through to graduation
or non-completion, it is possible to compare the number of students
who enroll in the Gymnasium in a particular year with the number of
graduates three years later. In this survey, data for three cohort batches
were collected from all 1641 Greek Gymnasia (pupils enrolled in Gymnasium
for the school years 1987/88, 1989/90, 1991/92).
According to the
- The national (average)
Gymnasium dropout rate is approximately half what it was ten years ago
(10% vs 20%) (Drettaki, 1993). [According to estimations
the dropout rate in the Primary school is roughly 2%. Thereafter the
aggregated dropout rate for the compulsory education (6 years Primary
school and 3 years Gymnasium) is 12%].
- Half the school
leavers do not even show in the A' Gymnasium-grade (European 7th grade).
- The dropout rate of males is higher than that of females [ males:
11%; females: 8% (cohort 1991/92) ].
- Differences were
pronounced among the regional districts, among the prefectures and among
the Gymnasia. The rates were much higher in Thrace and in the Islands.
In the former case the high rates are mainly to be found in rural areas
and are attributed mainly to pupils of the muslim minority. In the latter
case (Aegean islands, Ionian islands, Crete) dropping out of school
is mainly linked with early entrance into the tourism labour market.
The broader metropolitan area (Athens) had the lowest rates. On the
other hand, this area, due to its large population size, has the greatest
number of dropouts (absolute frequency).
- The dropout-rate
in rural areas (population less than 2000) proved to be higher than
that of urban areas (population greater than 10000). Only insignificant
differences have been found between rural and semirural areas (population
between 2000 and 10000).
B' PHASE: Structured interviews were carried out with dropouts to examine the
factors influencing their decision to terminate their schooling prematurely.
From December 1994 through June 1995, ninety interviewers asked a nationwide
representative sample of 1450 dropouts (from the cohort 1991/92 -aged
15 to 17) a variety of questions concerning school attendance, educational
attainment, work involvement during the school terms and after dropping
out, their occupational aspirations and plans, and their training needs.
produced several interesting findings. Among them, the most critical
for the design of training courses for school dropouts are:
- The low socio-economic
and educational level of the dropouts. Some of them face additional
problems due to sickness, divorced parents, one or both parents deceased,
- Their diversified
knowledge and skill background. They dropped out at different grades,
with varied basic knowledge deficiencies.
- Their diversified
work experience. The majority worked after abandoning the Gymnasium,
mainly as assistant-labourer, in the following occupational fields:
construction, agriculture, automobile maintenance and other services.
- The negative experiences,
which they have accumulated within the school environment, attributed
mainly to marginal achievement levels. The most important reason for
leaving school was learning difficulties, mainly in Mathematics, Foreign
Languages and Physics.
- Their declared
interest in specific occupations and jobs, such as hairdresser, automobile
mechanic, dressmaker, carpenter, plumber etc. The occupational aspirations
of the dropouts are judged to be compatible with the Greek reality context,
when one considers their limited formal qualifications (no compulsory
education certificate) and their low-level skills, acquired through
on-the-job training in similar jobs. The same holds true for their preference
in self-employment vocations which generally promise relatively higher
- Their motivation
to attend training courses, reinforced by their retroactive realisation
of the usefulness and necessity of certified vocational skills in the
world of work.
It becomes evident
from the findings of the research that conventional, school-based vocational
training schemes would not be appropriate for school dropouts. New schemes
must be tested, which would approach these youngsters with special,
motivation, pre-vocational and vocational training programs. To this
end it is necessary to establish a basic framework, which would conceptualize
the design of special vocational courses addressing the training needs
of school dropouts.
Based on our findings,
we propose the following basic principles to define this framework:
1. Because of the
diversified knowledge and skill base of the dropouts, the structure
of the initial training courses must be of modular form. Open-learning,
individualized instruction and tutoring schemes should be considered
as alternative methodologies.
2. The structuring
of the initial training programs must facilitate the interface with
continuing training schemes, whenever available in the formal training
system, in order to broaden the prospects of the school dropouts for
professional development during their working life.
3. Because of the
anticipated low self-esteem of the dropouts as a result of school failure,
comprehensive training courses should integrate remedial education,
counselling and motivation components.
4. Because of the
generally negative experiences accumulated by the dropouts within the
school environment, it is unwise to select school-based training delivery
schemes. It would be highly desirable to commence any training program
with an apprenticeship term or on-the-job experience, which would put
the dropouts at ease and motivate them for the consequent part of the
program which would inevitably include some theoretical concepts.
of the social partners (employers and workers unions, and the local
or regional authority) at the local level is necessary, in all aspects
of the design and delivery of the training programs, in order to minimize
the prospect of unemployment following the training of the dropouts.
6. Depending on
the socio-economic context, new financing schemes must be explored based
on cost-sharing participation by all social partners, and on provisions
from national and international resources.
vocational training courses for school dropouts is a procedure which
requires the cooperation of several specialists, each one of whom must
be experienced in addressing special needs. Following the research findings
in Greece, these needs are councelling, vocational orientation and guidance,
modularized curriculum development based on the learning-by-objectives
method, and local labour market analysis. The procedure also needs some
validation and consensus by the local social partners, if the outcome
of the training delivery is to maximize the prospects for stable employment
for the dropouts. This paper proposes a framework for the conceptualisation
of such course designs, which may be useful to other countries with
similar socio-economic conditions.
Using Absolute and Relative Frequencies: Oikonomikos Tachydromos
18.5.95, p. 101.
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von Experten zum Thema "Strukturwandel in Arbeit und Beruf und sein
Verhaeltnis zu Bildung und Ausbildung unter besonderer Beruecksichtigung
des Flexibilit aetsaspektes" (H.Schreiber 15.2.89)
IAB (German Institute
for Work and Professions) (1988) Prognos-Studie, Mat AB 5/88
ROUSSEAS, P., VRETAKOU, V. & PANAGIOTOPOULOU, I. (1996) Greek
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(1991) National Policies on combating social exclusion. First
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