European Journal of Psychology of Education

, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 255–274 | Cite as

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

  • Carmel CefaiEmail author
  • Paul Downes
  • Valeria Cavioni


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.


Post-secondary education Resilience Access Early school leaving Social exclusion 



This project was in part financed by the University of Malta.


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Copyright information

© Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada, Lisboa, Portugal and Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Resilience and Socio-Emotional Health Old Humanities BuildingUniversity of MaltaMsidaMalta
  2. 2.Educational Disadvantage Centre, St. Patrick’s CollegeDublin City UniversityDublinIreland
  3. 3.Department of Brain and Behavioral SciencesUniversity of PaviaPaviaItaly
  4. 4.St. Patrick’s College of EducationDrumcondraIreland

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