Across Europe 3.2 million young people (18-24 years old) are reported as early leavers from education and training, with one-in-five fifteen-year-olds underperforming in basic skills. Moreover, as learner well-being is correlated with educational attainment, the reality that 10 to 20 percent of school children report experiencing mental health issues (anxiety and depression) and a declined sense of belonging, raises strong concern. These concerns have only been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic as it elevated stress and anxiety among learners, decreased access to essential services and instigated educational inequalities as students from socio-economic disadvantaged backgrounds were less likely to have access to the internet or electronic devices needed for virtual learning.

This reality led the European Commission, on June 30th, 2022, to adopt a Proposal for a Council Recommendation entitled “Pathways to School Success”. The aim of this initiative is to recommit to a shared vision for EU Member States to achieve a European Education Area that ensures inclusive and quality education for all. To reach this goal, the  Commission has set EU level targets to reduce fifteen-year-olds underperforming in basic skills (reading, mathematics and science) to less than 15 percent, and early leavers from education and training to less than 9 percent.

Additionally, based on input from researchers and stakeholders, this initiative identifies underperformance and early leaving as interconnected issues triggered by a combination of factors (social, economic, family-related, limited access to early childhood education and care, segregation and grade repetition) with the strongest determinant being socio-economic status. Due to this, the recommendation calls for integrated strategies that cover a range of areas that can impact educational outcomes such as a learner’s well-being, “irrespective of who they are or where they come from”.

Eurodiaconia’s Briefing presents a summary and analysis of the most relevant points of the Recommendation and identifies the next steps, in cooperation with our members, to ensure inclusive and equality education for all.

To read the briefing in full, click here.