The University of Malta had launched a detailed study of early school leaving in Malta, using Cottonera as a case study.
The project will focus on six pupils in Form II and six in Form V who have a background where none of their relatives has gone to university and the parents have a low income and a relatively low level of education.
The study will assess community and peer mentoring, school support and family-based support, Dr Carmel Cefai, project coordinator said.
The study, titled Promoting Resilience in Education was formally launched last month and explained at a seminar today.
The children who will be closely assessed will be identified in February.
The idea is to assess which interventions are effective to prevent children from dropping out of schooling at 16, Dr Cefai said.
Should the project be successful, it will grow into a nation-wide strategy.
Malta has the highest rate of early school-leavers in the EU. Significant progress was made in recent years but 36% of youngsters still drop out of schooling at 16. Malta hopes to bring this figure down to 29% by 2020, but the EU target for the same year is 10%. The current EU average of school leavers is 14.4%
University Rector Juanito Camilleri said Malta still had a shockingly low level of tertiary education participation in some towns and villages. A number of pupils just needed an extra nudge to go into tertiary education and the authorities needed to focus on these children first, he said.
Paul Downes, Director of the Education Disadvantage Centre at St Patrick’s College in Dublin, gave examples of how other European countries had encouraged participation in tertiary education.
He said that pupils in countries such as Malta did not have problems of cost for schooling, but universities needed to have closer links to community life. Community leaders should be included in discussion on access to education. There should be engagement with students, from a young age, and the promotion of a sense of meaning as to why people should be at university.
In countries such as Estonia, he said, they had preparatory admission classes.
The fact that education was structured on ‘O’ and ‘A ‘levels created hurdles and it was better to have a system such as in Ireland, where schooling was compulsory to 18, he said.
There should also be lifelong education centres in the community.