14 SES 17 A, Preventing Early School Leaving: The importance of families and communities
Early school leaving (ESL) is a topic of concern to most countries around the world. This concern has its importance since in the near future these students will most probably be subject to precarious and underpaid work. This will cause deterioration in the quality of life of the person, also influencing the economic growth of the country (Catherine & Hill, 2015; European Commission, EACEA, Eurydice & Cedefop, 2014; Tukundane, Minnaert, Zeelen, & Kanyandago, 2015). The main concerns about unemployment and the level of poverty have led to a common goal between countries from the European Union (EU): to reduce the school dropout rate below 10% by 2020 (European Commission, 2016).
Complexity for analysing ESL comes not only for its social consequences, but also due to the variety of terms related to ESL (drop-out, abandonment, etc), their definitions and the indicators used to measure it:
Concerning terms and definitions, Bowers, Sprott, & Taff (2013, p.2) consider abandonment as ‘all students who did not receive a high school diploma’. In the study of Kritikos & Ching (2005, p.11) ESL is defined as ‘young people leaving school before the legal school leaving age and/or leaving school with limited or no formal qualifications’. Other definitions are: ‘failure to complete uppers secondary education; failure to complete compulsory schooling; failure to gain qualifications or school leaving certificates; failure to participate in education or training by those of school leaving age; failure to gain qualifications required for participation in further education; failure to gain qualifications required for access to wide a range of labour market opportunities to sustain life chances’. Finally, De Witte, Cabus, Thyssen, Groot and van den Brink (2013, p.14) define school dropout as ‘leaving education without obtaining a minimal credential (most often a higher secondary education diploma)’.
Concerning indicators for ESL, the Statistical Office of the European Union (EUROSTAT), focuses in secondary education and define ESL as ‘a person aged 18 to 24 who has completed at most lower secondary education and is not involved in further education or training’ (EUROSTAT, 2016). The United Nations Organization for Education Science and Culture (UNESCO) and the Institute for Statistics (UIS), focused in primary education and define ESL as ‘100% minus the survival rate to the last grade of primary education’ (2012, p.34).
Considering the aforementioned consequences of ESL, a key line of research are the factors that influence ESL in order to provide interventions to diminish their effect. Amongst the broad spectrum of studies that analyse the different factors that influence ESL, they can be divided into four groups: individual, family, social and educational factors. Focusing on research on family factors, it is stated that having a united family bond, responsible and capable of guiding the young person in his day to day is vital to obtain an evolution and optimal development in the individual (Cervantes & González, 2014). Studies on family factors that affect ESL consider the family structure, the socioeconomic level of the parents, the atmosphere at home, as well as the sociocultural aspects of the family (Akos, Rose, & Orthner, 2015; Crosnoe, 2009; Edwards et al., 2014; Grolnick et al., 2015).
The objective of this study is to analyse, through the elaboration of a survey, the opinion of Primary, Secondary and Upper Secondary Education teachers about the relationship that exists between family variables and Early School Leaving.
This research follows a survey methodology by means of administering a questionnaire to teachers. It followed several phases: 1. A systematic meta-review of review articles on the factors that influence ESL was conducted. In the analysed literature, a total of 160 variables were found that influenced the student who ESL. These variables were divided into 4 groups: individual (54 variables), family (35 variables), social (8 variables) and academic domain (63 variables). 2. Questionnaire design and validation: based on the 160 variables, items were written and expert validation was conducted using university professors, secondary education teachers, educational counsellors, as well as primary education teachers. 3. Pilot testing the questionnaire: the questionnaire was drawn up using the Google Docs application and was administered to members of the target population asking them to complete the survey in the planned delivery mode (web-based). In this phase, most changes referred to the structure of the questionnaire as well as the instructions to answer it. The final version of the Questionnaire on "Early School Leaving" has the following characteristics: 1) Aim: to collect the opinion on the factors that influence ESL. 2) Target Group: teachers of compulsory education with job experience in the stages of Primary Education, Secondary Education and Upper Secondary Education. 3) Content of Items is structured in five groups: demographic questions and items linked to individual, family, social and academic variables. 4) Number of items by type of response: 111 items of which 93 are of a five-point Likert scale, 5 of single response, 2 of multiple response, 2 of dichotomous response and 8 of open response. 4. Questionnaire administration: the questionnaire was administered following a snowball sampling, a nonprobability sampling technique where existing study subjects that have the characteristics of the target group recruit future subjects from among their acquaintances within this group. The sample of this study is made of a total of 135 Primary, Secondary and Upper Secondary Education teachers in Spain. 5. Data analysis: the statistical package SPSS version 24 has been used for descriptive statistics: frequencies, mean and standard deviation. Additionally, Likert scale answers were grouped in two groups: less influential (values 1 and 2) and more influential (values 3 to 5).
Answers to the 17 items related to the characteristics of the family can be divided into two groups: less influential family variables (with majority of responses with values 1 and 2), and more influential family variables on ESL (with majority of responses with values 3 to 5). In the first group, there are 8 variables related to the family perceived by teachers as less influential on ESL: Low income of parents, being a large family, live in a single-parent family, divorced parents, having step parents (living with the father or mother and a partner), not living with their parents, being an orphan, and excessive dependence on parents. In the second group, there are 9 variables perceived by teachers as more influential on ESL. In order of importance, the most influential, with more than 80% of responses from 3 to 5, are 4 variables: family conflicts, parents who maltreat their children, parents who do not participate in the education of their children and parents who reject their children. The second group, with more than 70% of responses from 3 to 5, are 2 variables: parents who stop being the main reference for their children, and low labor expectations towards their children. Finally, other influential family variables, with more than 60% of responses from 3 to 5, are 3 variables: health problems of the parents, low cultural level of the parents and not having educational material available in the home. The main conclusion is that, contrary to several studies, the family structure (single parents, divorce, etc.) is not perceived by teachers as influential on ESL. On the contrary, a solid and respectful relationship between the members of the family and the commitment of the family with the education of their children are key elements for not being at risk of ESL.
Akos, P., Rose, R., & Orthner, D. (2015). Sociodemographic Moderators of Middle School Transition Effects on Academic Achievement. Journal of Early Adolescence, 35(2), 170–198. https://doi.org/10.1177/0272431614529367 Bowers, A. J., Sprott, R., & Taff, S. A. (2013). Do We Know Who Will Drop Out? A Review of the Predictors of Dropping out of High School: Precision, Sensitivity, and Specificity. The High School Journal, 96(2), 77–100. doi:10.1353/hsj.2013.0000 Catherine, J., & Hill, T. D. (2015). Leaving School in an Economic Downturn and Self-esteem across. Early and Middle Adulthood. Labour Economics, 37, 1–12. doi:10.1016/j.labeco.2015.08.004 Cervantes, M. C. M., & González, M. L. G. (2014). Competencias emocionales en los preadolescentes: la implicación de los padres. Revista Iberoamericana de Educación, (66), 75–88. Crosnoe, R. (2009). Family–school connections and the transitions of low-income youths and english language learners from middle school to high school. Developmental Psychology, 45(4), 1061–1076. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0016131 De Witte, K., Cabus, S., Thyssen, G., Groot, W., & van den Brink, H. M. (2013). A critical review of the literature on school dropout. Educational Research Review, 10, 13–28. doi:10.1016/j.edurev.2013.05.002 Edwards, D. B., Zimmermann, T., Sitha, C., Williams, J. H., & Kitamura, Y. (2014). Student transition from primary to lower secondary school in Cambodia: Narrative insights into complex systems. Prospects, 44(3), 367–380. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11125-014-9318-x European-Commission (2016, January 11). Europe 2020 targets- European Commission [EUROPE 2020]. Retrieved from http://ec.europa.eu/europe2020/europe-2020-in-a-nutshell/targets/index_en.htm European-Commission, EACEA, Eurydice, & Cedefop. (2014). Tackling Early Leaving from Education and Training in Europe. Strategies, Policies and Measures. Luxembourg: Office of the European Union. doi:10.2797/33979 EUROSTAT (2016, November 2). Glossary: Early leaver from education and training - Statistics Explained [EUROSTAT statistics explained]. Retrieved from http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Glossary:Early_leaver_from_education_and_training Grolnick, W., Raftery-Helmer, J., Flamm, E., Marbell, K., & Cardemil, E. (2015). Parental Provision of Academic Structure and the Transition to Middle School. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 25(4), 668–684. https://doi.org/10.1111/jora.12161 Kritikos, E., & Ching, C. (2005). Study on access to education and training, basic skills and early school leavers: final report. London: London, Engalnd: GHK. http://www.voced.edu.au/content/ngv%3A33316. Accessed 04 June 2017. Tukundane, C., Minnaert, A., Zeelen, J., & Kanyandago, P. (2015). A review of enabling factors in support intervention programmes for early school leavers: What are the implications for Sub-Saharan Africa? Children and Youth Services Review, 52, 54–62. doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2015.02.011 UIS. (2012). Global education digest 2012. Institute for Statistics Opportunities lost: The impact of grade repetition and early school leaving. Montreal, Canada: Institute for Statistics UNESCO.
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