Almost a fifth of Maltese young people aged 18 to 24 do not receive any education or training, as the island tops the EU early school leavers’ list despite efforts to address the problem.

The European Union average for school leavers last year stood at 12.4 per cent, well below Malta’s 19.7 per cent.

The European Commission’s 2017 Social Scoreboard shows that in 2016, Malta had the highest rate, even though the figure had dropped – by just 0.1 percentage points over the previous year.

For the second year running, Croatia had the lowest rate, at 2.8 per cent.

For the purposes of the study, early school leavers are those who have, at most, completed lower secondary education and are not involved in any form of further training.

The report notes that in the EU, the rate of early leavers has been falling continuously since 2005 and that, despite improvements, the Commission noted persistent disparities among member states.

In recent years, the Education Ministry has launched several measures aimed at reducing the number of early school leavers. The measures target younger students, with schemes to encourage them to further their education beyond secondary level.

As part of these efforts, students are being given the opportunity to opt for vocational subjects, a project that got rolling in 2011. The ministry has repeatedly insisted that the results will not be evident for some years.

According to Europe 2020 targets – a 10-year, EU strategy to promote growth in the member states – Malta should slash its rate of early school leavers to 10 per cent, which means halving last year’s level in just over three years.

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