14 SES 08 B, School-related Transitions: Voices from parents, teachers and students
In line with the ECER 2018 theme, the paper provides an analysis of three critical interconnected phenomena that in the 21st century still prevent thousands from being included in schooling and thus in a highly demanding European information and knowledge society: school dropout, at-risk students and early school leavers.
In this paper proposal, the authors identify, analyse and discuss schooling factors that (negatively) impact the educational attainment of adolescents and young adults (12-24 year olds) in two national contexts that present close resemblances – Portugal and Spain. In Spain, dropout rates are among the highest in the European Union, despite the reduction that has occurred in recent years (Serrano et al., 2013). Spain is also one of the countries with the highest level of school failure in the European Union, namely for the school population between 18 and 24 years (Eurostat, 2016). In Portugal, even though student learning outcomes, enrolment, and completion rates have been steadily improving in the last 40 years, early school leaving rates are still at 14%, far from the Europe 2020 target of 10% (European Commission, 2013; PORDATA, 2016). Their geographical close proximity also accounts for this selection.
At-risk students can be defined as students that, for several reasons, do not attain the expected educational outcomes. Early leavers from education and training denotes the percentage of the population aged 18-24 having attained at most lower secondary education and not being involved in further education or training (Eurostat, 2017). Most international studies, aiming at identifying factors that impact attainment and/or predict school failure and dropout, have been developed through quantitative and/or econometric methodologies. Among the most well-known and discussed factors are the socioeconomic and cultural/ academic level of families and material goods (Bernardi & Requena, 2010; Ferrer Esteban, Castel, & Ferrer, 2006; UNESCO, 2017), but we also find variables related to schools and their characteristics (Ferrer Esteban, Castel, & Ferrer, 2006), migrant status and minority social and ethnic groups (Cabrera et al., 2013), personal characteristics, expectations and personality (Calero, Choi & Waisgrais, 2010), and academic achievement (Breen & Jonsson, 2005). Thus failure and dropout are not inherent to the student him/herself, but the result of the intersectionality of different categories and variables that determine their risk of occurrence. The studies show us a complex map of variables that function either to include or to exclude students from the schooling system (schools and the organization of the schooling system itself, families, teachers and classes, and students themselves). Quantitative analyses reveal the importance of the problem of exclusion and the impact of these variables, but they do not tell us anything about ‘failing’ students themselves (see Gamoran, 2001; Smyth & Hattam, 2004; Mena Martínez, Fernández Enguita & Riviére Gómez, 2010). In this complex map, the experience of the students is very important but seldom looked at (Mena Martínez, Fernández Enguita, & Riviére Gómez, 2010).
In the paper, dropping-out is taken not a terminal phenomenon but a complex process that for most of the students started in primary education and continued with their entry in compulsory secondary education. In order to have a more comprehensive view of the phenomena, the study adopts the ‘failing’ individual’s point of view, the perspective of those who, by a plethora of factors, among which schooling, find themselves ‘without a system’. It therefore takes a political and hermeneutic approach to the analysis of these factors, by looking at the actors themselves to disclose meanings and interpretations they attribute to the mission and values of public school. For this paper, the school/ schooling variables were selected for presentation.
The research main objective is to identify, analyse, and understand which elements and factors are involved when an adolescent finds himself or herself in an at-risk situation or leaves school before completing compulsory secondary education. As our aim was to understand a given phenomenon (school failure and dropout) from the individual’s experience, the meanings attributed to it, its significance, doubts, and life itself, a qualitative approach was best suited to deeply analyse the educational, family, and sociocultural contexts that constitute students’ biographical and experiential networks. Much of the research studying school dropout and early school leaving focuses on socioeconomic and sociocultural factors, as well as variables connected with school provision. This research contributes to understanding the scope and depth of the factors involved, by focusing on the personal circumstances, from the failing students themselves and their life histories. As methodological strategies we used in-depth ethnographic interviews (89), followed by selected biographical case studies (8), and focus group interviews (8) in both contexts, to two groups of participants (students at-risk and early school leavers) of three age groups: 12-16, 16-18, and 18-24 years old. In this paper we will focus on the data collected in the ethnographic interviews because they allowed getting information about the opinions, ideas and events that have happened in a singular socio-educational environment from our informant´s point of view. The questions focused on the family and school context, the socio-cultural context, and also on the vision of the subject on him/herself, highlighting participants’ perceptions and experiences on the following themes: the school context, the family context, the neighborhood context, work experiences, leisure and friendships, and identity traits. Qualitative analysis was carried out using NVivo 11 software and revealed several categories connected to the theme “School/ Schooling context”, selected for presentation in this paper: views of the teachers, school subjects, subject content, school as institution, relationships at school, schooling trajectory, assessment, sense of belonging, reasons for studying, among others.
School failure and dropout is often the result of a disengagement process (Fernández Enguita, 2011) that is curricular, affective, relational, and cognitive. It is not an individual issue, but the effect of intersectionality (Hill Collins, 1999), the effect of the interaction among factors that determine inequality, discrimination, or exclusion (or ‘privilege’). The results on the theme “School/ schooling” evidence key issues: a) repetition of school year in primary education; b) disconnection between school and the adolescents’ internal world, interests and their experiences; c) teaching methodologies of a highly academic nature; d) fragile relationship between teachers and students, with low empathy; e) main teaching priorities outcomes-oriented, not student-centred; f) the construction of personalities that respond to the model of citizen / client that the social order needs to preserve its own system; g) a nonexistent pedagogy of waiting, of listening and affective care. ‘Failing’ students are located in the intersection of those factors; of particular importance are the role of the teacher and of teaching methodologies: - Devaluing students and stigmatizing them: “you will never succeed”; "I would ask and I would never be answered but another good student would get an answer”. - Inheritance of the failing stigma and low academic expectations: “Uh, the teacher could not face me, or my siblings. By looking at our surnames the teacher would say ‘look who I got’. And would tell us to leave the class”. - Poor relationships between teachers and students: “The teacher would teach his class and would go… he wouldn’t worry about anyone or anything”. - Transmissive and highly academic teaching methodologies: “They explain to you once; if you understand it’s ok; if not, just put up with it”; “Too much to memorize; the subjects to memorize were really hard for me”.
Bernardi, F.; Requena, M. (2010). Inequality in educational transitions: the case of post-compulsory education in Spain. Revista de Educación, número extraordinario 2010: Abandono temprano de la educación y la formación: cifras y políticas, p. 93-118. Breen, R.; Jonsoon, J. O. (2005). Inequality of opportunity in comparative perspective: Recent research on educational attainment and social mobility. Annual Review of Sociology, 31, p. 223-243. Cabrera, N. J., Coll, C. G., Martinez-Beck, I., & McLoyd, V. C. (2013). Positive development of minority children. Social Policy Report: Sharing child and youth development knowledge, 27(2), 3-22. www.srcd.org/spr.html Calero, J., Choi, Á., & Waisgrais, S. (2010). Determinantes del riesgo de fracaso escolar en España: Una aproximación a través de un análisis logístico multinivel aplicado a PISA 2006. Revista de Educación, Número Extraordinario, 225-256. European Commission (2013). Peer review on early school leaving. Background paper: Portugal. ec.europa.eu/dgs/education_culture/.../peer-backde_en.pdf EUROSTAT (2016, January 29). Eurostat - Tables, Graphs and Maps Interface (TGM) table. Retrieved from http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/tgm/table.do?tab=table&init=1&plugin=1&pcode=tesem020&langu age=en EUROSTAT (2017). Education and training in the EU - facts and figures. Available at: http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Education_and_training_in_the_EU_-_facts_and_figures Fernández Enguita, M. (2011). Del desapego al desenganche y de este al fracaso escolar. Propuesta Educativa, 1(35), 85-94. Ferrer Esteban, G., Castel Baldellou, J.L., & Ferrerán Ferrer, J. (2006). Las desigualdades del sistema educativo a través del estudio PISA 2003. Revista de Educación, nº extraordinario 2006: PISA. Programa para la Evaluación Internacional de Alumnos, 399- 428. Gamoran, A. (2001). American schooling and educational inequality: A forecast for the 21st century. Sociology of Education. Extra Issue, 135-153. Hill Collins, P. (2009). Another kind of public education. Race, schools, the media and democratic possibilities. Boston: Beacon. Mena Martínez, L., Fernández Enguita, M., & Riviére Gómez, J. (2010). Desenganchados de la educación: Procesos, experiencias, motivaciones y estrategias del abandono y del fracaso escolar. Revista de Educación, Número extraordinario, 119-145. PORDATA (2016). The database of contemporary Portugal. Lisbon: Francisco Manuel dos Santos Foundation. http://www.pordata.pt/en/Home Serrano, L., (dir.), Soler, A., & Hernández, L. (2013). El abandono educativo temprano: Análisis del caso español Valencia: Ivie/Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Económicas. http://www.ivie.es/downloads/docs/mono/mono2013-01.pdf Smyth, J. & Hattam, R. (2004). Dropping out, drifting off, being excluded. Becoming somebody without school. New York: Peter Lang. UNESCO (2017). Reducing global poverty through universal primary and secondary education. Policy Paper 32 / Fact Sheet 44. UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) & EFA Global Education Monitoring Report c/o UNESCO. http://uis.unesco.org/en/news/world-poverty-could-be-cut-half-if-all-adults-completed-secondary-education
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