Early school leaving (ESL) is an obstacle to economic growth and employment. It hampers productivity and competitiveness, and fuels poverty and social exclusion. Young people who leave education and training prematurely are bound to lack skills and qualifications, and to face serious, persistent problems on the labour market. In 2012, nearly 5.5 million young people between 18 and 24 years had not finished upper secondary education and were not in education and training. On average, the unemployment rate of these early school leavers is 40.1%, compared to 23.2% overall youth unemployment in Europe. Tackling early school leaving is a stepping stone towards improving the opportunities of young people and for supporting smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. (EC, 2013). The struggle against early school leaving (ESL) has become a main priority of EU countries especially in the “Strategy Europe 2000”. It combines prevention and mediation focusing on a main goal: each youngster should be able to have all chances to build a future and therefore to succeed in life. It is a main concern for achieving social cohesion and a fair educational system. Involving all the members of the Educative community, in close relationship with local authorities and professionals, should allow to offer alternative solutions to each youngster facing difficulty at school.
In order to struggle against ESL, extra-curricular activities have been offered outside school, mainly in sensitive urban areas (suburbs, areas characterized by high level of unemployment, single parents, high level of drop outs). Children and youngsters are proposed different kinds of activities allowing them to learn a language, mathematics or any other discipline through games or social activities. The idea , in complement to school, is to give self -confidence and hope to youngsters who feel lost and abandoned by school. These activities combine different profiles of "educators"- teachers (at school) work in close relation with volunteers and paid professionals. As a result, diverse pedagogical approaches , different but complementary, have been implemented. This alternative approach may re-engage youngsters who might face difficulties at school to find their way back to school by testing other pedagogical methods with adults (professionals in associations or local authorities) who are not supposed to assess their work but to support them in improving the assessment they will receive at school. This "detour strategy" has been enhanced in educative activities offered outside school (through games, sport, cultural activities...) to bridge the gap between informal and non-formal learning (outside school) and formal learning (at school). A pioneer project, initiated on a European level - the SAS project, 2012-2014- focused on Volunteering as an alternative pedagogy to re-engage youngsters who might be faced to ESL.
The Schola project aims at designing tools and methods for professionals -teachers at school and educators outside school- in order to support them to be able to identify and assess the skills and competences acquired and/or to be developed by youngsters through a volunteering and therefore to support their work among youngsters facing difficulties at school or already early school leavers and so be able to combat efficently Early school leaving (ESL). The project will be carried out transnationally as the outputs of the PISA study have proved the useful impact of transnational comparison to promote and implement educative policies. The Schola gathers countries with different educative backgrounds where non formal and informal learning is differently taken into account such as France and Belgium where some efforts have been made to enhance non formal and informal learning (at least among adults) and Poland, Italy or Slovenia where formal learning is still the main reference for assessing learning outcomes of pupils/students.