School dropout has been a frequent issue on international educational policy agendas and, in times of pandemic, a threat, with 24 million students at risk according to UNESCO .
However, only one in five countries demonstrated a commitment to equity in ‘precovid’ education through their funding mechanisms, and there is little indication that concern has increased on the ‘postcovid’ path.
Faced with this generational catastrophe, anyone could venture the reasons why students abandon their studies, but could we point out the reasons why they remain in school?
School dropout is not sudden, but the final stage of a process of loss of commitment to studies. Placing your gaze on what you commit to staying in school instead of looking at what you expel, means changing glasses and focusing on another way of doing that involves allowing teachers to interact directly with students and their families, offering closer and more comprehensive opportunities .
School commitment is an active facilitator of student participation with the school and its learning process. It can predict educational success factors such as performance, attendance and promotion in educational levels and cycles, as well as the degree of involvement of students with their school and their educational task.
The success of staying in school
The school engagement means through various dimensions that are explaining that the students remain successful in school: affective, behavioral, cognitive and agéntica.
The affectively committed students are linked and with a good disposition towards work, they feel part of the educational community, the center is significant in their life and provides them with tools to achieve achievements outside the school context.
The behavioral commitment entails the participation of the students and the subjection to the norms of coexistence.
The cognitive engagement refers to consciousness and willingness to make the necessary effort to understanding and mastering complex concepts and skills with self – regulation strategies.
The agentic dimension implies the ability to set goals and set a plan to achieve them and is closely related to the school environment, which must create a warm and welcoming environment that values the contributions of the students.
Recent studies show the development of school engagement models in Europe and Latin America that affect the need to be able to measure the level of engagement in order to make the concept tangible and, therefore, applicable to the improvement of educational policies.
In the research work Online Platform for the Evaluation of School Engagement, Version 2.0: From the Chilean Experience to the Use in Latin American Countries, the development of version 2.0 of a technological platform for the evaluation of school engagement used in Chile, Colombia, Peru is described. , Uruguay and Spain. With it you can measure school engagement and contextual factors, generate results reports by student, class or center and various educational resources.
This tool makes it possible to monitor educational trajectories, anticipate reactions and, therefore, design supports to retain students on the appropriate itinerary.
The content of the platform is based on a questionnaire validated by 1,578 students between the ages of 12 and 19 in secondary schools in those countries.
Six Steps to Build Engagement
In Chile, a system has been developed to generate school commitment as part of the accompanying procedures and strategies for secondary school students. This model is developed in six steps or phases that can be adapted by schools due to their versatility and that constitute a good example of how school commitment can be generated.
- A first phase is the creation of a participatory space for school engagement where all actors must be represented and where the center’s engagement plan can be planned and monitored.
- The second phase involves measuring school commitment with the support of an online platform where students are sampled in the affective, cognitive, behavioral dimensions, family support, teacher support, and peer support.
- Third , the information is analyzed and reviewed by student, class and center.
- The fourth phase involves selection and engagement promotion strategies , with the system having a toolbox that facilitates decision-making.
- The fifth step refers to follow-up , supported by interactive worksheets.
- The last phase focuses on the evaluation and adjustment of the system in the center.
The system is completed with a series of training resources, measurement instruments, and monitoring and evaluation files. It includes a search engine for school engagement strategies and a results download system, which makes it easier for the teacher or the school management to obtain the information in an automated, simple and descriptive way.
An educational system that intends to fulfill its mission must “change glasses”, stop looking at what fails and focus its gaze on what generates commitment in all the actors that make up the educational communities.
We must project energies on actions that favor educational itineraries and not only on the obstacles or barriers that interrupt them; it is about moving from deficits to opportunities, from negative to positive trajectories.
This change has implications at various levels. On the one hand, it has to do with decisions in educational policy that promote the institutionalization of this type of approach. On the other, with the promotion of the human resources of the educational system, motivated teachers, with tools and adequate resources.
Likewise, flexible, inclusive, horizontal and adequate educational structures are needed to manage the uncertainty that the pandemic has brought us and that has imposed an accelerated digitization of processes, not always under conditions of equality. Finally, it means reaching society through the complicity of families and citizens in educational work.
Author Bio:Associate Professor of Social Work and Social Services at Pablo de Olavide University