The raising of school leaving age (often shortened to ROSLA) is an act brought into force when the legal age a child is allowed to leave compulsory education increases. In most countries, the school leaving age reflects when young people are seen to be mature enough within their society, but not necessarily when they are old enough to be regarded as an adult.
There are several reasons why a government may wish to raise the school leaving age. It may be due to a lack of skilled labour in the country, or it may simply be a way of reducing a country’s unemployment figures.
The school leaving age was raised from 16 to 18 following a law change on 17 July 2007. The change will be implemented within three years of the law being passed. In the 2005-6 school year 5.6% of students left school before the age of 18, mostly at age 16; the dropout rate was highest amongst Bedouin (9.8%) and lowest amongst Jewish students (4.7%).
|Parts of this article (those related to changes to school leaving ages in different states of Australia) are outdated. (January 2010)|
The current age which a child can leave compulsory education in the state of New South Wales was raised to 17 in May 2009. The Education Minister Carmel Tebbutt stated “all the research shows that if students either get their Higher School Certificate or an equivalent vocational qualification, then their employment opportunities in later life are far greater and so is their income-earning capacity.” She mentions the change to the school leaving age is being combined with more subject options to make sure school remains relevant for all students.
The state of South Australia also suggested similar proposals in March 2006, saying that their school minimum age should be raised from 16 to 17 by 2008. Independent state MP Bob Such suggests that it may not happen for at least another four years, whilst in the meantime, too many children are leaving school without any qualifications. The age will be raised by law on 1 January 2009 to 17 or 16 if the person is working or training.
Tasmania has for decades had their school leaving age set at 16, with a requirement to be participating in education or training until age 17 recently enacted as of 2007 according to the Department of Education.
The Western Australian government is pushing the minimum school leaving age up from 15 in 2006 to 16 in January 2007 and to 17 in January 2008. This should stay set in place for many years to come.
Victoria changed their school leaving age from 15 to 16 in 2006.
The minimum ages from 2009 will be the following:
- Northern Territory – 15;
- ACT – 15;
- South Australia – 17;
- Queensland – 17;
- Victoria – 17;
- Western Australia – 15;
- NSW – 17 (if they want to not do their HSC they need to be working at least 25 hours per week or at TAFE studying until they turn 17;
- Tasmania – 17.
Some states such as Queensland allow for students to leave conventional schooling at 15 if going into full-time employment, obtaining an apprenticeship or completing a tertiary education course at approved institutions (I.e. TAFE) (From 1 January 2006 the Queensland minimum school leaving age was raised from 15 to 16 years or when a student has completed Year 10, whichever comes first.)
The statutory minimum school leaving age in France is 16. There are however a few specific cases where young people may enter employment before the age of 16, such as employment in the parents’ company, sporadic work or taking up an apprenticeship at 14, to name a few. The apprenticeship option is becoming increasingly popular 
The school leaving age in Germany is essentially set at 18. However, it does differ depending on the school type. For example, those attending a Gymnasium study for their Abitur and so leave at a later age of 18 than those for example attending a Berufsschule (16) or a Hauptschule (also 16).
Until recently in Italy, students could leave school once they reached the age of 14. The compulsory school leaving age was raised to 16 years to bring the country into line with the rest of the EU. The reform of the educational system presently underway in Italy has increased the school leaving age to 18 years. Apprentices below the age of 18 without occupational qualifications are offered the option of completing compulsory education required by Italian law.
The most recent occurrence of the school leaving age being raised in Poland was in 1999, when the Polish government proposed an overhaul of the country’s education system, resulting in school attendance being made compulsory up to the age of 18.
 England and Wales
The school leaving age in the UK, particularly in England and Wales, has been raised numerous times. The first act to introduce and enforce compulsory attendance was the Elementary Education Act 1870, with school boards set up to ensure children attended school, although exemptions were made for illness and travelling distance. Since then, the age has been raised several times, most notably to 15 through the Education Act 1944 and to 16 in 1972, along with the addition of ROSLA Buildings and Middle schools, the latter serving the 8-12 or 9-13 age ranges, though many have since been abolished.
Some 16 year olds in England and Wales are of Compulsory age (those who turn 16 between September and June). Students must remain in school until the last Friday in June in the school year they turn 16 (usually the end of Year 11). This does of course mean that a small number of students leave school still aged 15.
The British Government has proposed raising the age again to 18 in 2013 in England only, which it believes will tackle the problem of young people leaving school unskilled, with the DfES stating “we are letting young people down if we allow them to leave education and training without skills at the age of 16.” Sixteen is the current school leaving age in England and Wales, with students generally required to complete their GCSE examinations at the end of year 11 before leaving.
Raising the participation age to 18 was first proposed to come into effect with the Education Act 1918. Plans for this were soon dropped when the government needed to cut public spending after World War I, as was the case when attempts were made to raise it in 1944, with cuts in spending after World War II delaying any plans preparing for it. There is a probability that the participation age in education or training will rise to 18 in England but remain at 16 in Scotland and 16 in Wales according to a Welsh Assembly Government spokesperson.
 North America
In Canada, the age in which children are required to attend schools is determined by the provinces. Currently, enrollment in education is compulsory up to the age of 16 in all provinces and territories of Canada, barring Manitoba, New Brunswick and Ontario in which the school-leaving age is 18 unless the student graduates secondary education at an earlier age. In some provinces, early leaving exemptions can be granted under certain circumstances under the age of 16.
 United States
In the United States, most states allow for the ability to drop out without parental consent at the age of 16. Those states which have raised their minimum dropout ages above 16 usually provide for exceptions of parental consent at ages 16 and 17. Further, most states have clauses allowing for graduation by students who manage to complete all academic requirements early.
 States that have raised their minimum dropout age to 18
- New Hampshire
- South Dakota
- District of Columbia
- New Mexico
 States that have raised their minimum dropout age to 17
 States debating raising the minimum dropout age above 16
- Kentucky (Legislation proposing a dropout age of 18 has been filed in the 2011 General Assembly)
- North Carolina
- Minnesota (a bill for the raising of the compulsory attendance age to 18 that was passed by the state legislature in May 2008 was vetoed by Governor Tim Pawlenty)
Leon Botstein is an advocate of reducing the minimum dropout age to below 16.
- Knesset raises school dropout age to 18 Haaretz, 18 July 2007
- NSW Govt considers raising school leaving age ABC News, 17 November 2006
- MP moots change to school-leaving age ABC News, 10 March 2006
- “New school leaving age for South Australia”. Premier Mike Rann. 2007=05=02. Retrieved 2010-01-06.
-  Department of Education Guaranteeing Futures legislation 16 July 2008
- School: leaving it too early Online Opinion, 1 September 2005
- Contribution to EIRO thematic feature on Youth and work – case of France EIRO, 5 March 2007
- International Living’s Italy FACT FILE International Living
- Title of good practice: Basic skills for minor apprentices European Civil Society
- Poland to raise school-leaving age to 18 BBC News, 28 May 1998
- Spain RightToEducation.org, 12 November 2001
- School leaving age set to be 18 BBC News, 12 January 2007
- Staying on ‘must not be forced’ BBC News, 11 June 2007
- Under-18s who leave school to be fined The Independent, 23 March 2007
- School leaving age plans unveiled BBC News, 06 November 2007
- Proposal raises dropout age to 21
This article uses material from the Wikipedia article raising of school leaving age, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.