Early school leaving: causes and possible solutions


Early academic dropout of students in Spain rose to 13.9% in 2022 , which exceeds the EU average (9.7%) . Even more worrying is knowing that foreign students double the school dropout rate , especially taking into account that 1 in every 6 residents in Spain was born abroad (15.8% of the total population).

These data contradict the common belief that multilingualism and multiculturalism represent an educational advantage .

Causes of abandonment

In a series of recent surveys, our research has identified two types of causes of school dropout: endogenous (coming from within, being personal and relational/familial) and exogenous (external, either structural or institutional).

For example, these types of responses to the question of why they dropped out of school could be classified as internal causes:
“I simply said: this is it. I didn’t see myself capable” (Spanish student, 22 years old).

“When I came here when I was 8 years old, it was difficult for me to adapt because of the language, one day I left class crying” (English student, 22 years old).

“With the crisis, I had to help my father at work. I’m not going to say that that’s why I repeated 3rd grade, but it did have an influence” (Spanish student, 21 years old).

“With their separation, what my parents did was condition the lives of three children forever. That is not fair. Not having them marked me” (Ecuadorian student, 18).

Economic and social reasons

Among the external causes, 38% of school dropout rates are attributed to the economic dimension, and 41% to school and institutional causes . These are some responses obtained from the same survey that refer to this dimension:
“In my neighborhood I opened the window and saw drug addicts, prostitutes… I had it normalized, it was what I saw at home” (Spanish student, 27 years old).

“If you have parents who have studied and done well, it is easier for you to stay there. But if they are “in trouble” and you have no orientation…” (Spanish student, 21 years old).

“Right now in my house we are all unemployed. We only have €600 from grandmother’s pension and a little savings from my father” (Spanish student, 27 years old).

“They have a phobia of studying as it occurs in high schools (mathematics, language, English, physics). All of this is very foreign to their reality and they do not find it practical at all” ( local administration technical respondent, adult education ).

“When going from school to institute, there is no tutor to accompany the students, to motivate them, to be with them and guide them personally and academically” ( respondent from the Third Sector – associations and foundations – health and addictions sector ).

Language and social status

Although the aforementioned causes can occur in both native and foreign students, the migrant population is more sensitive towards them .

Among the foreign population, however, there are factors that increase or decrease abandonment. Thus, speaking Spanish at home reduces the gap with native speakers to around 35% in reading and scientific competence, although it does not impact mathematical competence.

The socioeconomic and cultural level of foreign families increases academic performance (mathematics, reading and scientific competence) and reduces the dropout rate.

The lack of a feeling of belonging to the school and greater exposure to bullying negatively influence academic performance and are more pronounced in the migrant population .

Two new factors contributed by the surveys cited are conflicts and maladjustment in relation to the peer group and the loss of the social value of studies in the social field.

Positive examples

As can be seen, there are many factors that affect academic performance in both native and foreign students. They are factors that stigmatize and marginalize, harming inclusion in both cases. However, it is understandable that the migrant population is more sensitive to this .

It must be considered that the presence of frustrated and disinterested students can cause the entire class environment to be affected. The example of the reception of migrants in other countries may be useful.

Germany finances complementary German courses, hires additional tutors to attend to and accompany migrant students in a more personalized way , allocates financial resources to poor families to compensate for educational needs and pay for support classes . Logically, sociocultural and economic improvements in turn have an impact on personal and relational dimensions .

Other governments could copy effective models of prevention or attention to academic failure to improve the situation: hire, for example, additional tutors to reinforce general subjects for native students and accompany foreign students with language classes.

A concrete experience

Here it is worth mentioning our experience as professors at the Pablo de Olavide University of Seville in paying special attention to students to prevent failure, accompanying them in learning during their final educational stage.

We try to help them overcome the trauma of possible previous academic failure so as not to repeat the same experience. According to official data, 8.7% of Spanish students are repeaters in their secondary stage . Arriving at university, many repeaters continue with the need to face this issue and claim their right to a new opportunity, to more personalized attention and to more empathetic tutored support without stigmatization.

To achieve this, it is useful to advise students by applying the psychological principles of emotional support , coaching , and reflective pedagogical dialogues .

Return trust

Another positive experience is offering repeaters to collaborate on projects related to issues of academic abandonment to overcome it, develop their skills through other disciplines (such as sports) or work with migrant students with their mother tongues, discovering new talents and outlets. .

It is vital to restore self-confidence to repeaters and failures, both natives and foreigners, so that they advance in their development and social integration and so that their deployment, multilingualism and multiculturalism, where appropriate, can represent not a detriment, but an advantage for everyone.

Author Bio: Olga Koreneva Antonova is a Doctoral Assistant, Faculty of Translation/Interpretation, Area of ​​German Philology at Pablo de Olavide University