Author(s):Francesca Salvà-Mut (presenting), Rubén Comas-Forgas (presenting), Jaume Sureda-Negre, Mercè Morey-López, Maria Bel Pomar-Fiol, Teresa Adame-Obrador

Conference:ECER 2015, Education and Transition

Network:02. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)


Session Information

02 SES 06 C, Transitions: What Contributes to Success in VET?

Paper Session


Room:238. [Main]

Chair:Karen Evans


Success And Dropout Pathways In VET

Research about educational and training levels of Spanish population shows low rates of people with a medium educational level (ISCED 3-4) and an excess of people with a low educational level (ISCED 0-2). Regarding young people, the most commonly indicator used to refer to people with a low educational level is the concept of Early School Leaving (ESL), which describes the population percentage aged 18-24 who have completed at least lower secondary education and does not follow further studies or training programs. Despite the improvement of ESL rate in Spain during last years, actually it is still very high (23.5% in 2013), almost the double if we compare it with EU rate (11.9% in 2013) (National Institute of Educational Evaluation, 2014), and far below the objective of the European Strategy 2020 to bring it below 10%.
In this context, it is strategic to develop a flexible VET system that promotes further education opportunities for young people, to reduce ESL rates and to increase educational medium levels in Spain. Despite the importance of the subject, there are few evidences and research carried out about success and dropout pathways in VET, but there are a relevant number of studies centred in other educational levels (especially compulsory secondary education). For that reason is really important to develop new knowledge to promote successful strategies, policies and practices.

Our research is focused on VET success and dropout pathways in Spain, particularly on young people following secondary VET programs in the education system. The main objectives of the project are: (1) to generate new knowledge about VET success and dropout personal itineraries and (2) to develop positive action proposals to promote success and to prevent and to reduce ESL in VET programs in the Spanish context.

The existing international literature on the subject, in summary, focuses primarily on the study of dropout rates in VET, risk factors, interactions between these factors and processes that lead to the abandonment and factors that generate retention of VET students (Glaesser, 2006; Gronborg, 2013; Jäppinen, 2010; Jordan, Lamamra & Masdonati, 2009; NCVER, 2005; Tanggaard, 2013).  Our research focuses, as the central concept of our approach, the student engagement, developed from the 80s in the context of research on secondary school leaving in order to understand this phenomenon in depth, as well as to design interventions for prevention and remediation. The concept encompasses, basically, three types of engagement: behavioural engagement, emotional engagement and cognitive engagement. The student engagement is also characterized by being very susceptible to the effects of the intervention, being heavily influenced by the contexts (family, school, peers, etc.) and be both sides of the coin: outcome and process (Reschly & Christenson, 2012).



Analysis of VET dropout (push factors) and success (pull factors) is proposed in this project as part of a multidimensional concept and process of the phenomenon; alongside various perspectives and factors are studied in a macro, intra and micro level. Moreover, one of the two general objectives of the project consists in the elaboration and dissemination of proposals and resources for action to combat the abandonment and reinforce the retention amongst VET students.
Based on the particularities of the study and according to the objectives, this research has an estimated duration of four years, adopting a mixed methodology approach that combines quantitative and qualitative perspective and implements various techniques for obtaining, processing and transforming data into knowledge and resources and services to tackle VET dropout rates.
The main objectives of the project are operationalized by conducting nine tasks:
- Task 1. Identify, systematize and analyse existing literature (evidences) on success and dropout itineraries amongst VET students. Instrument: systematic review of research literature.
- Task 2. To map the dropout rates on VET in Spain. Instrument: analysis of secondary statistic sources.
- Task 3. Analyse the relationship between leaving VET and the characteristics of the educational centres (location, size, training offer, teachers, students’ ratio, socio-economic conditions of the neighbourhood-town, ownership, etc.). Instrument: analysis of statistic data of the VET educational centres placed in Balearic Islands and Catalonia (Spain).
- Task 4. Develop case studies of at least four VET centres with low dropout rates. Instrument: case study.
- Task 5. A longitudinal study of the educational pathways of students who initiates a VET degree (levels 1 or 2) of the educational system. Instrument: longitudinal survey administrated to a representative sample of VET students.
- Task 6. Biographical in-depth interviews to a minimum of 10 participants in the longitudinal survey.
- Task 7. Focus groups with VET teachers and professionals and experts in the field to analyse the results of the project and elaborate intervention proposals. Instrument: focus group.
- Task 8. Elaborate and disseminate materials and resources aimed at improve the success conditions and reduce the dropout factors amongst VET students.
Tasks 3, 4, 5 and 6 are carried out in the Balearic Islands and Catalonia, the two autonomous communities in which the field work is done.

Expected Outcomes

Project results will allow to provide science-based evidence, strategies and tools that contribute to the improvement of existing knowledge about secondary VET programs in the Spanish education system and, more specifically, to prevent and to correct the serious dropout problem in these educational levels.
The main results that are expected to achieve during the project implementation include:
- A map on dropout rates in VET in Spain.
- An analysis of the relationship between dropout and characteristics of the VET centres.
- Identifying success and dropout rates in vocational secondary education.
- Describing and systematizing a typology of educational and career paths that follows the students of VET.
- An analysis of the reasons that lead VET students to success and dropout itineraries.
- Materials and resources aimed at strengthening the conditions for success and avoid dropout.


Glaesser, J. (2006). Dropping out of further education: a fresh start?. Findings from a German longitudinal study. Journal of Vocational Education & Training, 58(1),83-97.
Grønborg, L. (2013).Scaring the students away? Institutional selection through assessment practices in the Danish vocational and educational training system. Journal of Vocational Education & Training, 65(2),1-18.
Instituto Nacional de Evaluación Educativa (2014). Sistema estatal de indicadores de la educación 2014. Madrid: Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte.
Jäppinen, A. (2010). Preventing early leaving in VET: distributed pedagogical leadership in characterising five types of successful organisations. Journal of Vocational Education & Training, 62(3),297-312.
Jordan, M., Lamamra, N., & Masdonati, J. (2009). Dropout Rates in Vocational Education and Training: A Failure of the School-to-Work Transition? En Rauner, F. et al. (Eds.) Innovative Apprenticeships. Promoting successful school-to-work transitions. Turin: European Training Foundation.
Lamamra, N. & Masdonati, J. (2009). Arrêter une formation professionnelle. Mots et maux d'apprenti.e.s. Suisse: Antipodes.
NCVER. (2005). Why do students leave? Leaving vocational education and training with no recorded achievement. Adelaida: Australian National Training Authority.
Reschly, A.L. & Christenson, S.L. (2012). Jingle, Jangle, and Conceptual Haziness: Evolution and Future Directions of the Engagement Construct. En Christentson, S.L.; Reschly, A. & Wylie, C. (ed.). Handbook of Research on Student Engagement. NY: Springer. P. 3-20.
Tangaard, L. (2013). An exploration fo students’ own explanations about dropout in vocational education in a Danish context. Journal of Vocational Education & Training, 65:3, 422-439.

Author Information

Francesca Salvà-Mut (presenting)
University of Balearic Islands
Department of Applied Pedagogy and Educational Psychology
Rubén Comas-Forgas (presenting)
University of Balearic Islands, Spain
Jaume Sureda-Negre
University of Balearic Islands, Spain
Mercè Morey-López
University of Balearic Islands, Spain
Maria Bel Pomar-Fiol
University of Balearic Islands, Spain
Teresa Adame-Obrador
University of Balearic Islands, Spain