The school leaving age is the age at which a person can legally drop out of school. This term is often used in jurisdictions that have compulsory education. In such jurisdictions, minors are usually required to attend school starting at a particular age and ending at another. An individual may continue to attend school after he has reached the school leaving age, however. For example, in many jurisdictions, compulsory education ends at 16, but students who want to earn a high school diploma may remain enrolled until they reach 17, 18, or 19 years of age.
Many countries have compulsory education, which means minors are required to attend school or participate in some other type of formal education. Many also have an age by which minors are supposed to be enrolled in school. For example, some jurisdictions may require minors to be enrolled in school by age six while others may set the age of enrollment at age eight. In many jurisdictions, a parent can be prosecuted if his child is not enrolled in an approved form of education by the maximum enrollment age.
In jurisdictions that have compulsory education, there is usually a school leaving age as well. This is the minimum age a student must be to legally drop out of school and be free from compulsory education requirements. This doesn’t mean a student has to leave school once he reaches the school leaving age, however. In many cases, a student will have to attend for at least a couple of years after reaching this threshold if he wants to earn a high school diploma.
Many jurisdictions set the school leaving age with eligibility for employment in mind. In such jurisdictions, the school leaving age is set to minimize the gap between the age at which a student can leave school and the age at which he is employable. This isn’t true in all places, however, and in some jurisdictions, there may be a significant gap between the school leaving age and the legal employment age. There are also many jurisdictions in which a minor can secure employment long before he can legally drop out of school.
In jurisdictions in which unemployment is a problem, talk of raising the school leaving age often develops. This is due to the fact that more dropouts typically translate into an increased need for jobs. Delaying the entry of minors into the workforce by raising the age at which students can leave school may help jurisdictions deal with this problem temporarily.