NEPC Study Visit 2018: Anti-Dropout Best Practices in Serbia
At the end of November 2018, the Center for Education Policy (CEP) from Belgrade hosted the Open Society Fund (OSF) Prague delegation to present the results of the projects “Combating early school leaving in Serbia through effective dropout prevention and intervention measures at the school level”; “Support to education of migrant children/refugees in the Republic of Serbia” (http://www.cep.edu.rs/longtermprojects) as well as one of the partner schools, the Technical School “23. maj” and the Elementary School “Branko Pešić”, both based in Belgrade. The visit is a part of the ongoing NEPC Study Visits activity, initiated to support collaboration between NEPC members which, for various reasons, are less likely to work together.
The participants, among whom was a Deputy Principal from Brno, stated she found it interesting to learn that both projects are designed following the individual approach, to create a safe and positive school climate. She underlined the intensive cooperation among students and the environment of peer-support that was witnessed in both schools.
The dropout prevention model and risk assessment tool
The dropout prevention project had been piloted in 10 schools in Serbia, including the Technical School “23 Maj”. The delegation learnt about the dropout prevention model, structured in three components. The first consists of an “early warning and intervention system”, which covers activities and interventions at school level. In this stage, teachers identify the students with the highest dropout risk and the school staff creates the individual plan of dropout prevention for those students. The second component encompasses measures and activities that involve parents and peer support. The third component aims at changing the school culture and at training all the teachers.
A risk assessment tool was elaborated for the screening. It provides teachers with risk factors, which they evaluate for each student. Teachers use a set of questions divided into the 3 groups (family, school and local community) to draw a risk index for every student. The considered risk factors are socioeconomic status, absenteeism, academic achievement, behaviour, use of social assistance, peer acceptance.
The OSF Prague representatives consider the project as inspirational and have shared the learnings from the project to other schools, upon their return to Czech Republic. The Deputy works for an educational institution that has many similarities with the schools visited and she expressed the will of introducing the practices from the study visit as part of a long term vision of her school, with the goal of creating a friendly and supporting environment, where the students could experience success and feel supported by their peers and teachers.
Involvement of relevant stakeholders
The visiting team was happy to learn that CEP involved other relevant stakeholders in their projects such as the Ministry of Education, an aspect that leads to sustainability of best practices at a systemic level. The governmental body is a partner from the beginning of the project as an expert consultant and the practice is now expanding to the national level. The study visit and the exchange with CEP confirmed OSF Prague’s assumption that early involvement of institutional bodies, such as the Ministry – in this case, contributes to broader results in terms of implementation. OSF Prague is now working on a new program with the focus on increasing the quality of education in primary schools in the Czech Republic. Throughout this program, different projects will be proposed to schools. There will be an expert committee and a representative of the Czech Ministry of Education will be a member of it, as the model observed in the CEP projects was perceived as a functional one.