Retention : what keeps students in school?
Rather than ask why students quit school before Year 12, the author suggests we should ask, what keeps them in school that long? She recounts her experience of school, starting in kindergarten. By grade 3 she was in the gifted and talented program and was later admitted to a selective high school. Shortly after the end of Year 11, she dropped out, then enrolled at another school but also dropped out of that one too. She never finished school. What went wrong? Simply, she could not see the benefit of staying on and nobody stopped her from leaving. The word used nowadays is 'disengagement'. There are two major transitional points that teachers and schools need to examine if they want to prevent disengagement. At the first, at kindergarten, there are already small gaps between children and while these may be closed with good practice, by the time the second point arrives, the transition to high school, these gaps will increase. There are three factors that contribute to problems for some students in the transition to high school: (1) literacy, (2) pressures or attractions outside the classroom, and (3) the nature of the change and expectations to which the student must adapt. The benefits of education are not always automatically clear to students, but with a mix of pragmatism and creativity it is possible to keep them interested. The early high school years are the perfect time for extracurricular activities, the introduction of independent thinking, and diverse subject matter suited to individual schools and students. [Author abstract, ed]
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