Is There Anything Specific about Early School Leaving in Southeast Europe? A Review of Research and Policy


  • Ivana Jugović,

  • Karin Doolan

Ivana Jugović, Institute for Social Research in Zagreb, Amruševa 11/II, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia,

Karin Doolan, University of Zadar, Department of Sociology, Krešimira IV, br. 2, 23000 Zadar, Croatia,,


Studies on early school leaving (ESL) from countries such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia have been missing from the international early school leaving research map. As a contribution to remedying this, the article reviews research papers and strategic documents from these countries, guided by the general question whether there is anything specific about ESL in this region in comparison to the wider European research and policy context. The aspects of ESL examined include definitional similarities and differences, extent of ESL, dominant theoretical and methodological approaches, factors identified as impacting ESL as well as policy solutions. We find that Croatia and Slovenia are among the countries which have the lowest ESL rates in Europe. The findings of the reviewed research studies correspond to international research papers in terms of the following frequent risk factors for ESL: low economic and cultural family background, ethnic minority and migration status, type of school enrolled and motivation and academic achievement. There is a strong focus on Roma children early school leavers in all of the countries examined and Bosnia and Herzegovina stands out in the broader European context with the finding that girls from large, low socio-economic status families, who live more than three kilometres away from school, are at particular risk of ESL. In discussing ESL, the reviewed studies tend to emphasise individual and family characteristics rather than also broader social constraints as ESL determinants, a practice also reflected in policy documents which do not mention the role of broader social and economic conditions shaping early school leaving.