Re-engagement in education and training of young people who leave education early: the importance of earlier prior trajectories

La reincorporación formativa de jóvenes que abandonan tempranamente la educación: relevancia de su trayectoria previa

Antonio Portela Pruaño, José Miguel Nieto Cano y Ana Torres Soto


The lack of education and training resulting from leaving education early might contribute significantly to high rates of unemployment and inactivity among young people. Education is also seen as a decisive means of tackling these problems. Therefore, acquiring knowledge about the conditions in which re-engagement with education occurs after it is prematurely interrupted deserves special attention. The study presented here explores the opinions of students attending a second-chance educational centre in Ceuta (where the aforementioned benchmarks have quite high levels) concerning their life courses prior to returning to education there and the impact they attribute to the centre. Data from in-depth, individual interviews were used to do this.

These were performed with 39 unemployed young people at risk of social exclusion aged between 18 and 24 (29 had left school early and 10 had not), as part of a broader case study relating to a centre selected for its relative success and its reputation in Ceuta. The information provided by the participants in the form of stories was subjected to narrative analysis, using two processes: summary biographical tables, which represent relevant events from their lives  longside their views of them, and thematic analysis of the information contained in them. In broad terms, results indicate that the life courses the participants follow are shaped by decisions they take from options shaped by personal, institutional, and social circumstances. They are, therefore, something like choice biographies.

 In this context, early school leaving and re-engagement in training are recurrent, transitory, and reversible, precisely because of the important role played by the people who experience these situations, even if they do so constrained by their institutional and social setting.


This is the English version of an article originally printed in Spanish in issue 272 of the revista española de pedagogía. For this reason, the abbreviation EV has been added to the page umbers. Please, cite this article as follows: Portela Pruaño, A., Nieto Cano, J. M. y Torres Soto, A. (2019). La reincorporación formativa de jóvenes que abandonan tempranamente la educación: relevancia de su trayectoria previa | Re-engagement in education and training of young people who leave education early: the importance of earlier prior trajectories. Revista Española de Pedagogía, 77 (272), 103-121. doi:

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Antonio Portela Pruaño holds a  doctorate in Philosophy and Educational Sciences (Pedagogy) from the University of Murcia. He is a Lecturer in the Department of Didactics and School Organisation in this university’s Faculty of Education.

José Miguel Nieto Cano holds a doctorate in Philosophy and Educational Sciences (Pedagogy) from the University of Murcia. He is a Lecturer in the Department of Didactics and School Organisation in this university’s Faculty of Education.

Ana Torres Soto holds a doctorate from the University of Murcia. She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Didactics and School Organisation in this university’s Faculty of Education, and Ad junct Professor at the ISEN-Centro Universitario (Cartagena), affiliated to the University of Murcia.

All of them belong to the Equidad e Inclusión Educativa (Equity and educational inclusion – EIE) research group. Their main lines of research include educational re-engagement of vulnerable students.