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“Fed up” with school: Student’s dropping out motives

Abstract : Early school leaving is considered today as one of the most important issues educational systems are facing. Defined as the ending of studies before completion of the secondary education, and also named “dropping out”, it constitutes a very serious impediment in the access to employment of the people concerned. This is why the decrease of dropping out is considered by the European public authorities as a priority. European countries are all pursuing policies tackling early school leaving. However, the phenomenon is more or less important according to the national context. A wide spread of ESL (Early school leaving) rates differentiates European countries, from 5% in Slovenia to 20% in Spain. France is in a rather central position at 9,2%. These gaps show that the educational system context has a crucial effect on the risk of dropping-out, and that the students’ school experiences are specific to each context. The paper presented here addresses this issue in the French context: to what extent the self-reported dropping-out motives reveal particular school experiences, and what do these motives tell us about the school contexts in which students live. Method The study of dropping out’s subjective dimension has mainly been addressed through qualitative research. Nevertheless we believe that it is possible to integrate experiential aspects as part of quantitative research methodologies, in particular by questioning young people on the reasons they quit school, which allows access to the logic behind their actions and the pressures that limit them. To this end, a survey named Motives of Dropout 2015 (MODS 2015) was conducted from April to October 2015, based on an administrative file which lists dropouts in France. 2935 people were contacted thanks to the file. Respondents answered a questionnaire with 91 questions about their school career (date of schooling interruption, potential grade repetitions, educational guidance, school punishments and deviances, relationships with teachers, etc.), their situation at the time of the survey (in regards to employment, to any help received) and their socio-demographic characteristics (family situation, country of birth, parents’ occupations and levels of education, etc.). In regards to the motives for dropping out, the questionnaire comprises an open question (« For what reason did you stop your education? »), as well as a list of 23 suggestions that may explain their interruption, with the respondents being asked to choose an answer for each statement from a Likert-type scale, indicating whether or not they agreed. The statements were chosen based on existing literature by distinguishing between motives that are « external » and « internal » to the schooling institution. The data was analysed in two stages. First of all, several multivariate statistical models were used to determine the relations between socio-demographic and school characteristics on the one hand, and dropping out motives, on the other. Secondly, a classification of motives allowed the highlighting of a typology of dropping out experiences. Expected Outcomes The models indicate that the way dropping out is experienced depends on the gender: girls more often point out that they had difficulty doing their school work; they also more often say they had personal or health issues. Whereas boys tend to explain their dropping out by a desire to earn money, difficult relationships with teachers or by their exclusion from school. Students born abroad less often mention difficult relationships with teachers or being uninterested in what was taught at school. The motives given by the respondents also have to do with their parents’ occupations. Young people whose fathers are workmen more often justify their dropping out by a desire to earn money than those from other social backgrounds. This motive however is less often evoked by respondents whose mothers are executives or employees. These young people instead tend to question the educational system’s functioning (uninteresting classes, schoolwork that is too difficult, bad relationships with the teachers). The typology leads us to consider five dropout profiles, quite highly differentiated depending on the school experience and more particularly on the amount of difficulties that the dropouts encountered in their school careers before dropping out. School experience is closely linked to dropping out motives. For instance, students that worked irregularly when they were in middle school and those who skipped classes during their training are more likely to indicate that classes were uninteresting and that they did not get on with teachers. More generally, this strong link between former experience and dropping out motive reveals an educational system that is largely unfit for the diversity of students. In a comparative perspective, early school leaving is not only a topic for educational policy, it represents also a challenge for the academic forms of schooling.
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Contributor : Christophe Michaut <>
Submitted on : Wednesday, August 16, 2017 - 5:26:20 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, September 17, 2019 - 9:48:08 AM


  • HAL Id : halshs-01574840, version 1



Pierre-Yves Bernard, Christophe Michaut, Lucy Bell. “Fed up” with school: Student’s dropping out motives. EUROPEAN EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH ASSOCIATION 2017, Aug 2017, Copenhague, Denmark. ⟨halshs-01574840⟩



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