Urgent need to address early school leaving
Recent reports into early school leaving (ESL) across Europe have highlighted an urgent need to better understand the issue and develop targeted, effective prevention and reduction measures.
The EUROSOLE project is inspired by Professor Sugata Mitra’s work into self organised learning environments (SOLEs) where children all over the world take control of their own learning in groups using the Internet.
Now SOLE Central, the global research hub into SOLE research and practice which Prof Mitra heads up at Newcastle University, is leading this three-year project together with the University’s Open Lab and six partners across four countries: Belgium, Finland, Ireland and the UK.
Fostering a life-long love of learning
Researchers will be exploring how a new approach - where young people rather than educators take a leading role in their education - can help foster a lifelong love of learning. In SOLEs, the emphasis is on stimulating curiosity and engagement in learning within a social and collaborative atmosphere.
“Many young people leave school early because they feel disengaged,” says project lead Dr Anne Preston, of Newcastle University’s SOLE Central. “It’s widely documented that a lack of active involvement in their own learning plays a key role in the high percentage of early school leavers in Europe. We’re suggesting that if you change the balance of control between teachers and students you can alter these dynamics and come up with effective preventative measures to tackle the issue.”
One of the main aims of the project is to create four sustainable alternative SOLE spaces in Newcastle (UK), North Tyneside (UK), Dublin (Ireland) and Lahti (Finland). These spaces, which may be portable, will draw on the partners’ diverse but complementary approaches to education which straddles formal, non and in-formal learning. The project will also benefit from partner The School of the Future’s innovative approach to education. Based in Antwerp (Belgium), this is an adult learning centre which provides a ‘second-chance’ for young adults who have left school without any qualifications.
Young people’s engagement with what they are learning is central to how they learn,” says Dr Preston. “The SOLE approach is similar to personalised and student-led learning but its difference lies in its focus on creating a social, intellectual and academic space for learning to take place rather than prescribing specific teaching methods.
“Our challenge is to bring about a change in the role of the teacher from transmitter of knowledge to facilitator of learning, enabling us to literally ‘rethink education’ in the process.”
Promoting 21st century skills that empower young people
One of the UK partners is Newcastle-based Success4All CIC, which managing director Caroline Afolabi set up the same year Prof Mitra came to the city. “Our approach is similar in that we also aim to create a relaxed learning environment where young people can learn from each other,” she explained. “We don’t ask Big Questions like a SOLE does, but we are very much led by the young people as to what they want to learn and how they want to go about it. When I heard about this project I thought it was a fabulous idea and wanted to get onboard.”
The project will also look at issues around the quality and relevance of students’ skills and competences and how the SOLE approach can promote the kind of 21st century skills that will empower young people long after they leave school.
Working in and across higher education, public schools and the third sector, EUROSOLE offers a response to tackling ESL which engages at the very heart of the learning experience of 13-21-year-olds across Europe. It also aims to encourage young people to continue learning beyond the end of compulsory education.
Researchers hope their work will help support the school education field, particularly in lower secondary school education, to tackle ESL through the development of new forms of self organised learning. One of the outcomes will be a set of handbooks for educators to help them facilitate a SOLE that will engage this particular audience, along with a guide to learning for change.
The partners are: SOLE Central (UK); University of Dublin Trinity College (Ireland); Lahti University of Applied Sciences (Finland); Success4All CIC (UK); George Stephenson High School SOLE Lab (UK) – part of Prof Mitra’s School in the Cloud project; and cvo Toekomstonderwijs ‘School of the Future’ (Belgium).
EUROSOLE: Promoting Young People’s Transition Pathways Through Engagement in European Self-Organised Learning Spaces is funded through a grant of €391K from Erasmus+ and will run until September 2018.
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