Breaking the cycle: A phenomenological approach to broadening access to post-secondary education.


Over the past decades, there has been a substantial increase in post-secondary education participation in most Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and European Union countries. This increase, however, does not necessarily reflect a parallel equitable growth in post-secondary education, and early school leaving is still an issue of concern in particular regions and countries across the world. This paper presents a study on increasing participation in post-secondary education in Malta, the country with the one of the highest proportions of early school leaving in the European Union. The study was carried out in a region with one of the highest rates of early school leaving in the country, making use of a phenomenological approach as well as a resilient systems perspective to early school leaving. On the basis of students’ narratives, the study identifies a number of risk and protective factors in early school leaving and makes various suggestions on how to build more resilient systems to facilitate access to post-secondary education, particularly for students coming from low socio-economic, excluded backgrounds.