Monday 18 March 2019

Divorce a factor in students’ early school leaving

Divorce has emerged as one of the significant contributors behind students’ decision to abandon school early, according to a new qualitative study.

The qualitative study, carried out by the National Observatory for Living with Dignity within the President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society, demonstrated how students’ experience at home impacted their decision to leave school without the necessary qualifications.

Prof. Carmel Borg, Observatory chair, said: “Divorce may cause the most profound, emotional trauma and leaves the biggest impact on children, particularly in low socio-economic status contexts defined by limited social and cultural capital.

“Children living in families where parents are divorced are often in constant, apparent or hidden mourning that often leads to early school leaving.” 

The study, by lead researcher Prof. Milosh Raykov, consisted of a literature review of qualitative studies as well as in-depth interviews, and its initial findings will be officially announced on Friday, March 15.

It addresses the issue of Early Leavers from Education and Training (ELET) — students aged 18 to 24 who have left compulsory school without at least five Sec passes and who are not enrolled in any educational programme or training.

The study follows up on the latest National Statistics Office figures, which in October 18 showed that although Malta’s early school leaving rate dropped to 17.7 per cent in 2017 from 20.3 per cent in 2014, this was still far from the 2020 target of 10 per cent.

The study adopts a social justice approach to understanding the phenomenon, where ELET is seen as symptomatic of a society where success is still heavily dependent on the socio-economic status, and of a school system that fails to guarantee education success to all.

Prof. Borg recommended: “With a strong correlation between the socio-economic status of parents and children’s education, one of the most important actions that needs to be taken more seriously is in the direction of closing the ‘parental gap’.

“Building parental knowledge of how to create a positive and enabling educational environment at home is a must.  Educational disadvantages start early and are cumulative in nature.”

However, the researchers warned that while a positive educational environment at home was crucial, quality schools were strategically central to achieving social justice in education.   

Foundation director general Ruth Farrugia said this latest research continued to underscore strong links between educational achievement and socio-economic status. 

“In light of increasing research evidence, we cannot ignore our obligations to support children at risk of poverty and suffering social inequalities, if we hope to secure wellbeing for all. 

“We know that the decision to leave formal education and training early is not sudden. It is a gradual accumulation of complex social factors, all of which can and must be addressed through early identification, intervention, and holistic support,” Dr Farrugia said.

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