Published 23 March 2021

Preventing early school leaving

Today, one of the most important keys to finding and retaining a job is an upper secondary educational qualification.

Almost all young people in Sweden start upper secondary education after completing compulsory school, but only two-thirds complete their education with a qualification in the planned time of three years. Reducing the number of young people leaving school early is important for many reasons. It is vital for the individual’s ability to support themselves and to live an independent life, but also for social economic aspects, such as the cost of financial support and other benefits, public health, and economic growth.

Reduction in early school leaving – a national and international objective

  • The Swedish Government has set a target that all young people should start
    and complete upper secondary education.
  • From 2020, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child will become incorporated in Swedish law, and Sweden will thereby commit to the target of every child’s right to education. Encouraging attendance and reducing early school leaving is one of five areas.
  • One of the Agenda 2030 goals is that, by 2030, all girls and boys will complete complete free, equitable and quality compulsory and upper secondary education.
  • An overall target in the Europa 2020 strategy is that dropout rates will be less than 10 percent. In Sweden, the proportion of people aged 18–24 that do not complete upper secondary education will be less than 7 percent.

Plug In - Sweden’s largest collaboration project to prevent dropout

Plug In is led by the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR) in collaboration with eight regions and over 70 municipalities.

The practical work in the project has taken place in municipalities, which is the level responsible for organising compulsory and upper secondary education in Sweden. Regional collaboration bodies have supported the municipalities and, together with the project owner, SALAR, have worked actively on policy development.

Plug In is financed by the European Social Fund and the participating regions and municipalities.


Further support was created by setting up PlugInnovation, a digital knowledge platform and a project-support organisation with the task of generating, generalising and disseminating knowledge on early school leaving and strategies for prevention. Research resources have been linked to PlugInnovation to work with analysis and process support during the project.

Transnational exchange via School to Work

Pyramid showing ...

Green top: Intensive interventions at individual level in complex situations. Orange centre: Targeted interventions for struggling students (individual/group). Blue base: Universal measures involving all students.

Preventive measures are important

Case studies in the project have shown clearly that effective dropout prevention requires initiatives at several levels. At individual level, this involves identifying risk factors, monitoring important indicators and quickly implementing measures. More general measures are also important, such as helping students feel secure and included, and encouraging positive interactions and trusting relationships between students and school staff. This three-step model provides the framework for describing the initiatives in Plug In 2.0. The model includes both a broad ”whole-school” approach and specially targeted initiatives for students displaying risk indicators.

Further reading

Read more about sucess factors at [webbplatsen finns ej kvar]


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