Educational resilience: how to get good academic results when everything is against you


Educational resilience is the ability of students to perform well despite adverse social, economic, or family circumstances. The key question is to find out which personal, family and educational context favor the resilience of students.

Knowing these protective characteristics is essential to try to help the least resilient. In our recent article, Academic resilience in European countries: The role of teachers, families and student profiles , the characteristics of the students are investigated. students, teachers and parents that promote educational resilience. The most notable results of this work that we have carried out are described below.

The data analyzed in the research come from the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study ( PIRLS ), of the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement ( IEA ). The PIRLS test assesses the reading comprehension of fourth grade students , which in Spain corresponds to fourth grade students in Primary Education.

A representative sample of students from 23 countries of the European Union, including Spain, was used. This is a very large sample of 117,000 European students belonging to 4,300 educational centers, and with regard to Spain 14,500 students from more than 600 centers were evaluated.

Social, economic and cultural indicators

To determine the socioeconomic situation of the students, the so-called Social, Economic and Cultural Index (ISEC) was used, which is made from four indicators:

  • Possessions in the home.
  • Books at home.
  • Maximum educational level of the parents.
  • Maximum level of occupation of the parents.

From the data obtained, it is considered that a student is resilient when his ISEC is below the first quartile of his country, that is, he is among the 25% with the lowest value in this index, and, nevertheless, he obtains some good academic results, located above the third quartile, among the 25% of the best students.

23% of resilient students were found in the European countries studied, slightly decreasing in the case of Spain to 21%.

What enhances resilience?

Ten variables of the individual and family context of the students and fourteen referred to the context of the teacher and their pedagogical strategies were analyzed. Although the detailed results can be consulted in the aforementioned work, some of the most relevant should be highlighted here.

In all the European Union countries studied, students with higher reading confidence are more likely to be resilient than their less confident peers, increasing the chances of resilience by up to 82% in the case of Spain.

The probability of resilience is also increased in most countries by having a high sense of belonging to the center, having acquired early literacy tasks in the family environment (knowing the alphabet, reading simple words or phrases), having carried out reading activities before starting school (their parents read books or stories to them or sang songs to them) or having attended educational centers before starting primary school.

Factors related to the context and the work of teachers predict the resilience condition of students to a lesser extent than their family and individual backgrounds. However, some variables referring to teachers and their practice are of special interest in terms of their impact on the probability of student resilience.

The climate of safety and coexistence in the centers and the use of comprehensive and reflective reading strategies increase the probability of resilience, reaching close to 20% in the case of Spain.

On the contrary, teaching strategies of a routine, repetitive and monotonous nature tend to lower the probability of resilience of the students.

21% of resilient students in Spain

In Europe, around 23% of fourth-grade students show a high degree of educational resilience, that is, they carry out their studies successfully despite adverse socio-economic and cultural circumstances. In the case of Spain, this percentage drops slightly to 21%.

Characteristics such as confidence in reading, the involvement of families in their children’s education, attendance at centers before starting primary school, a good school climate, or teachers who flee from routine strategies enhance the resilience capacity of students. students, both in Spain and in the rest of the European countries studied.

In sum, the positive message is clear: students’ academic resilience can be significantly improved by enhancing parenting and active and stimulating schools.

Author Bios: Francisco Javier Garcia Crespo is Associate Professor of Statistics and Operations Research at Complutense University of Madrid, Jose Muñiz is Professor of Psychometry and Rector at Nebrija University and Ruben Fernandez-Alonso is Professor of the Department of Educational Sciences at the University of Oviedo