The Malta Independent 18 August 2019, Sunday

System is mostly failing males, people of low socio-economic status in education - study

Friday, 15 March 2019, 14:34 Last update: about 6 months ago

A qualitative study presented to the The President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society titled “Early School Leaving and Personal and Social Wellbeing: A Qualitative Study” found that the school system is predominantly failing to guarantee education to males and those of low socio-economic status.

The study was conducted by Prof Carmel Borg from the National Observatory for Living with Dignity and Prof Milosh Raykov, and presented to a round table of various stakeholders and representatives who work in the area of social wellbeing in general.


President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca opened the soft launch for the study by expressing how delight at seeing representatives from various areas in attendance, and insisting that people must be reached from when they are still children and infants to give them the opportunity of lifelong learning.

This, she maintained, would be beneficial not only for the students, but for their families, community, and the country they live in.

ELET – Early Leavers from Education and Training

ELET refers to those students between the ages of 18 and 24 who have left compulsory schooling and who do not have at least 5 SEC passes grade 1 to grade 7 and who are not in education or training.

This new terminology was updated by the European Union to avoid confusing the cohort with early dropouts from school.

According to a report from October 2018 by the National Statistics Office, the early school leaving rate for 2017 had dropped to 17.7%, a further drop from the 20.3% rate of 2014 and the 27.1% rate of 2009.

In spite of these improvements, Malta still ranked last on the Equitable Education Index from the EU Social Justice Index of 2017.

This statistic is still higher than the EU average of 10.6% and distant from the target of 10% by 2020.

The study’s perspective works with the general consensus that ELET is detrimental to the individual, society, and the economy, and also adopts a Social Justice Approach to understanding the phenomenon.

This means that ELET is seen as symptomatic of an asymmetrical society where educational achievement and success is still heavily dependent on socio-economic status and where a disproportionate number of students do not experience social mobility.

Phase 1 - Data Analysis

The study was split into two phases.

The first phase of the study applied data visualization techniques, exploratory analysis, inferential statistics and trend analysis to address various key questions such as the significant associations between early school leaving and different aspects of wellbeing including general evaluation of wellbeing, functioning in daily life and short-term satisfaction.

Other areas this first phase explored was associations between early school leaving, mental wellbeing and physical health; what the work experiences, job characteristics and social status of early school leavers are; what the economic consequences of early school leaving are; and the significant associations between early school leaving and living conditions.

The study found that, amongst other things, both young and older groups of people who left their formal education and training before they completed upper secondary schools are less satisfied with their education, present job and standard of living; experience mental health issues’ and are less satisfied with their life in general.

Phase 2 - Interviews

The second phase of the study qualitatively delved deeper into individuals’ personal stories, and demonstrates the depth and the profound impact of deprivation and students’ experience at home and in school and their impact on students’ decisions to leave education early.

They found that the decision to discontinue one’s education is rarely spontaneous, and is in fact often the result of a cumulative process I none’s interaction with significant others, peers and the multiple contexts in which the individual would have interacted.

While absenteeism from school was not significantly present, interviewees reported significant ‘truancy in mind’. They wandered off to their troubled world while physically present in class.

Social isolation, bullying, rebellion, distrust, sense of worthlessness featured prominently in the conversation.



In addition to the need to increase awareness of the individual and social consequences of early leaving education and training, the study suggested taking measured focused on early identification and treatment of the causes that lead to school leaving.

The study also makes several recommendations that address the “parenting gap” that contributes significantly to ELET, as well as recommendations regarding school climate, community development, social regeneration and fiscal justice.

  • don't miss