Factors leading to school drop out are mainly two: individual and institutional ones. The former include: student, family, community. The latter include: education system, school premises, school climate, curriculum. The relationship between those risk factors and students leaving school is not that obvious and automatic; therefore, if a student has a certain socio-economic background he-she is not pre-destined to drop out; he may drop out for personal reasons. A student with strong personality and remarkable intellegence may leave school because of external reasons, which are due to his environment.
1 - Individual factors
a - personal:
with poor academic achievement
with poor school attendance
students who have low self-esteem or self-efficacy
drug or alcohol problem
students become pregnant or become a parent
students are members of struggling gangs
b - family:
students who move or change schools frequently
students&families with no fixed residence
a family to support
studens who have friends or family members that dropped out
c - economic socio-culture
low socioeconomic backgrounds
students who attend school in large cities
students who live in a community whose resources to support at-risk youngsters are very few.
a - Personal factors:
Studies have demonstrated a high correlation between dropping out and certain personal characteristics, including both social and academic factors. Risk of dropping out is linked to negative self-perceptions or low self-esteem, low aspirations. Students who leave school often exhibit poor academic achievement and poor school attendance. Many students who drop out express negative attitudes about school. They consider the coursework irrelevant, don't like school, don't get along with teachers or other students, don't feel safe and/or don't feel they fit in.
b - Family factors:
Certain family circumstances are associated with higher risk of dropping out. Children in singleparent or impoverished homes, whose families are mobile, who experience trauma (e.g. divorce, abuse, illness, unemployment), or have a family history of dropouts have higher risk for dropping out. Children may contribute to the family income or may assist some aged family members.
Mobility also adds to students' risk of dropping out: they experience serious disorientation after continuous moving.
Gender roles as reinforced by family also can contribute to school drop out even though girls are potential high achievers. Here is a dramatic generational conflict within the family since the mother demand the doughter be at home and the daughter aims at something more, via education.
c- Economic and social-cultural factors also may affect dropout.
Socioeconomic barriers prevent the young person from fully participating in school's social world. These especially aim at higher relational performances, personal growth and social formation. Barriers may have to do with working outside the home, with not having the economic resources to participate in the school's extracurricular activities, or with being treated as an inferior because of visible markers that communicate the student's low socioeconomic status (e.g., dress, speech, family automobile). If few job opportunities (or none at all) exist within a commumity, students may see little benefit for studying hard and staying in school. Particularly city youngsters may easily find alternatives to get some money; if so, school is no longer appealing to them and out of their thoughts. As argued in the report by Shannon & Bylsma, 2002, "contemporary schools generally reflect white, middle-class culture. Students from different cultural and economic backgrounds may feel alienated, unwelcome, or out of place in these schools leading to disengagement and dropping out or attitudes and behaviors that result in the system "pushing" them out. Schools promote the values of the majority culture and not that of the minority child". - School drop out may occur in rich areas too and affect well-off families; the North East of Italy is marked with a significant economic increase, specifically middle enterprises, excellent production, attempt to emerge from the domestic market. Job opportunities are easy and many and represent a strong factor to school drop out. The phenomena has double sides there: students leave after several failures or because they are so attracted by the labor market which absorbs dropouts more easily than school. Students that pass the year may drop out too, which means that school drop out may occur beyond school failures. This area suffers from a cultural life although there are libraries and theaters. and does not offer any incentives or motivations to study. Local people tend to consider school a waste of time, it takes the young away from potential jobs. Commuting is an additional factor that at-risk students consider a negative element contributing to their disengagement and disaffection. Commuting means they leave home early in the morning and are back in the middle of the afternoon. They have no time for their friends,for themselves either. They have no chance to get involved in their community. If they were working, commuting wouldn't be a problem, or at least the young could bear it more easily.
2 - Institutional Factors
Educational institutions contribute significantly to the dropout problem. Discipline, school organization and size, programs, courses, the type of instruction, school climate, and adult-student relationships can all influence students to drop out. These factors "blame" the other side of the coin: not the real actor-victim, that is the student, but the educational system, therefore schools, teachers and programs. Let us consider that the school rather than the individual student should be
considered at risk.
a - Courses, programs, curriculum quality:
It is to bear in mind that most students, particularly those of specific cultures, prefer learning situations that are active, participatory, emotionally engaging, and filled with visual and physical stimulation. Students frequently describe classes and school as boring; and some authors have concluded boredom is a first step in dropping out from school. Boredom is actually the first absenting behavior; it is a way of internally dropping out.
Quality of curriculum: Classrooms become places where material must be learned even though it may seem nonsensical to students (because there is not time to explain), where students are denied the opportunities to explore related topics they may be curious about (because their interests may wander too far from the official topics to be covered). As a result, many students stop asking questions soon after give in.
Passive instructional strategies
Disregard of student learning styles
Lack of relevant curriculum
b - Quality of teachers:
The lack of qualified teachers is cause of drop out
c - school climate and relationships:
Relationships among adults (teachers and family) and students are crucial for a positive school climate, particularly to spread out a sense of membership, that is students belong to the school they are attending.
School environment means a safty one too, where students and teachers feel at ease, safe, comfortable to walk and stop and have a chat too.
Conflict between home and school culture
Lack of adequate counseling
Negative school climate
3 - Who is At Risk for Dropping Out?
The following categories show young people that are more likely to drop out than others.
Ethnic status - a primary concern in many urban areas, where different cultures are concentrated.
Gender: apparently, there are not any remarkable differences in dropout rates between girls and boys. Both leave school for specific reasons: girls (pregnancy and marriage) boys (employment, behavioral difficulties)
Achievement: Poor academic performances, low test scores and lack of encouragement may increase student frustration and reduce reason to stay in school (Syndrome What is the point)
Behavior: serious behavioral difficulties since ever, total silence, aggressivity, sadness, lack of motivation, irriverence
School attendance: Attendance problems can be an early signal that the student is disengaging from the schooling process
Student attitudes toward school: Some researchers suggest that the student's psychological attachment to school and investment in learning are keys to academic and social success, and consequently keys to remaining in school.
Family characteristics: Limited economic resources is a priority in dropping out. Parent attitudes are clearly related to student engagement in learning. If they have a negative or superficial opinion of school, so will their children. If they place little value on school attendance and achievement, their children - here again - may wonder "what is the point to go to school?"