On school failure in Spain

Sobre el fracaso escolar en España

The past January 25, 2013, The 2, in the program For All The 2, issued a very interesting debate on school failure in Spain, which was attended by Inmaculada Egido, a professor of Comparative Education, COMPLUTENSE university of madrid; Xavier Massó, president of the SPES (the Federation of Unions of Secondary Education Teachers in Spain) and Professor of institute of Philosophy; and Mariano Fernandez Enguita, Professor of Sociology at the COMPLUTENSE university of madrid.

In 2008, the dropout rate in Spain reached 31.9%, and since then is declining but remains well above the european average. In fact, early school-leaving is still over 30% in six autonomous communities. Either abandonment or failure, that is to say does not terminate SO where to look for the root of these numbers? How did we come up here?

After seeing the debate, which lasts less than half an hour (what is the conversation itself), the first thought that comes to my head is that we are still far from a consensus on the educational model that we want in our country. In this debate, although the three participants are critical with THIS, we can see two positions quite polarized in terms of alternatives is concerned. Of the one part, Fernández Enguita and Egido propose to outline a paradigm shift in the role of the teacher, not to separate the paths of students before the mandatory period to prevent future inequalities, and offer different methodologies by which students, in their diversity, can get to the same goal. On the other hand, and in a way almost opposite, Massó defends the exclusivity of the transmission of knowledge to the school, and highlights the role of the effort and the merit of the students. You could say that while Fernández Enguita and Egido propose a model that is more close to Finnish, Massó is more favorable to the German model.

Since then, in this topic, I match and I’m part of the first position. I subscribe to everything said by Fernández Enguita, and Egido. And for anything I agree with the position of Mass. “But how can we say these outrageous things!” she exclaims Massó when Fernández Enguita talks about the changes to the role of the teacher in our era, where ICT are changing by leaps and bounds in the educational landscape and offered new possibilities in the transmission of knowledge. With all my respect to the lord Massó, and to everyone who thinks like him, I think it represents precisely the example not to follow. What outrages? More barbaric and wrong seems to me to say “that they be closed once the faculties of pedagogy”. What are the teachers to blame for the failure at school? Of course not. However, unfortunately, there is a sector within the professionals in the field of education (it seems to be that the more make up this sector are the number of secondary school teachers, although here I don’t mean to generalize) that maintain a discourse stigmatising towards the work of the pedagogues. Perhaps it is this opposition that do not advance the good work of education. As well points Inmaculada Egido, one thing is knowing and another is how to convey the know. Give back to the pedagogy it would be a mistake, irreparable, more in our time.

It is also a pity that Mariano Fernández Enguita, as a sociologist expert in education, I had not had more time in this discussion to refine the majority of its proposals and to remove the false topics on the new educational proposals. I’m sure that would have made very good use of the time and would have allowed us to clarify a lot of questions about what and how should be the educational model in Spain.

For All The 2 – Debate – school failureWatch videoSobre el fracaso escolar en España
  • For All The 2 – Debate – school failure

Since the debate revolves around the issue of school failure, and we also speak of early school leaversshould be clear that these are two concepts that go hand in hand, but different. In the colloquium Fernández Enguita points out the difference, but you can’t be entertained —for the limited time as mentioned in qualify it. But here the time is not limited and I consider it a good chance, after watching this debate, to resolve the confusion that often give on these two concepts: the school failure and early school leaving. Without going any further, we will take as reference the text of Fernández Enguita, Luis Mena Martínez and Jaime Riviere, Failure and dropout in Spain (Social Studies Collection, No. 29, “La Caixa” Foundation, 2010, pp. 18-24).

What is the school failure1

The term school failure is repeatedly the subject of discussion for two reasons. The first, for its value is meaningful, as there is not a clear definition of the same, because for some it would be not to finish IT, and for others, not to finish the secondary education, post-compulsory, at the same time that could include all forms of suspense, repetition or delay; that is to say, the failures partial that will be able to mark a difficult path to success. The second, for its value is connotative, because it would lead to disqualification and even the stigmatisation of the student, blaming exclusively with the consequent desresponsabilización of the institution.

In the more restrictive version, a fracasor escolar is the situation of the student who tries to achieve the minimum targets proposed by the institution –compulsory education–, fails in this and is withdrawn after being listed as such; in sum, after being suspendidor with the general character, certifiesdor instead of a graduate, etc, according to the terminology peculiar to each time a regulatory or each cultural context. In the Spanish case, the student who fails to finish the THAT in and out of her with a certificador of having completed but without a graduate degree, which certifies you have passed. Note that here fit poorly those who abandon IT without trying to even finish it, because there is no fail in what it attempts, and, however, tend to be included in the figure. Do not even enter or do so with difficulty, those who initiate the training of medium grade or high school but does not manage to overcome them, despite the fact that, literally, fail in the attempt. In this case tend to be included as failure, but as abandonment.

A version something less restrictive would include those that fail, having tried, in any of the mandatory levels, the secondary-compulsory or post-compulsory, i.e. both in THAT and in the training cycles of medium grade or high school. In this case the fundamental variable is who takes the final decision: if the institution determines that the student cannot continue or is he (or his family) who choose not to do it. From this perspective we could also speak of selection in the first case and of choice in the second.

Note that, in either case, again involves simply attend the classroom –more or less, provided that it is below the limits of the abandonment–. On the contrary, to accumulate repetitions would not be incompatible with completing the studies successfully. A successful true from the point of view of efficiency, since the students would have finished against wind and tide, but a resounding failure from the point of view of efficiency, as the ratio between means and ends would be outside of all purpose.

On the other hand, it cannot be ignored that under a broader concept of failure could include many types of paths and situations that normally are not. For example, the attainment of a degree with accumulation of repeats and a delay beyond a certain limit, or be below a certain level on objective tests and specific capacity or knowledge, regardless of the success school formal (obtaining the diploma).

Any conception more or less restrictive of the failure amounted to another significant number of students under the heading of neglect. In the broadest sense, abandonment would be the case for all students between 18 and 24 years who have not completed any form of education post-compulsory secondary, official and ordinary, in the Spanish case, mean, or high school or vocational training of average degree and, of course, their equivalents above: BUP, bachillerato superior, FP-I. here we Use the redefinition that the level three of the FILM made by Eurostat from 2005 onwards, and in consistency with it, we do not consider a level postobligatorio classified as ISCED 3C, which consist in a training of less than two years duration and that do not allow access to a higher education level; are excluded, therefore, the courses of social guarantee, the workshop schools, houses of trade, employment workshops and programmes for initial professional qualification.

In general, it is considered abandonment in the case of any student who, for not having achieved these titles, postobligatorios, ceases to be enrolled on the teachings common shares of the ISCED level 1, 2 or 3A and 3B, which in Spain would mean that it ceases to be so (or fail to be) in the ESO, the baccalaureate or CFGM (intermediate level training cycles). Are included in him, therefore, those who complete IT, even with success, but fail to enroll in high school or in CFGM; you can’t say that they have abandoned some of these stages, in the that never were, but it is considered to have left the school system. Are you also including those who continue in school through the programs classified as ISCED 3C, that is to say, the programmes of preparation for employment, even when you persist in them beyond the compulsory school and at the same time that would have taken them to pursue the higher secondary education.

In a sense something more restrictive, are the cases of school abandonment which, in compliance with the above conditions, not classifiable as cases of failure, for example, those that have obtained the title corresponding to compulsory education (graduation at THAT), that is to say, those who could have completed or be undertaking some form of education post-compulsory secondary (ISCED 3A or 3B) and have not made or do.

Even a delimitation administrative as seemingly simple poses problems. In a statistical treatment, the cases of early School leavers (AEP) are those who have not passed the upper secondary school, and its incidence can be calculated in respect of a cohort age group (those born in the year X), or school (which started THIS in the year And, for example), in respect of those enrolled the previous year or in respect of an age group (for example, the usual strip of 18 to 24 years, or the total of the adult population). In a treatment of the census problems arise with students who change of center or branch school, the absentee chronic that in spite of this continue to be enrolled, the figure grey of students who simply are not located, among others. The exclusion of the teachings of the FILM 3C, on the other hand, does not cease to be problematic, and some authorities regard it grudgingly; not by chance in Spain are used often to the concept of Educational Neglect Early (AET), defined as the abandonment “of the education-training”, an alternative to the AEP education instead of school, which would not include those who attend any other type of training, and early instead of premature, which might be due to a certain obsession with political correctness, or, in other words, to escape any designation hurtful in power. In particular, it is worth noting that, especially at the end of compulsory education, there are plenty of situations technically classified as absenteeism, because the student continues enrolling, but in terms of nouns should be classified as abandonment, if it is barely appears or does not appear for the classrooms.

So, what criterion can be described by the same, of abandonment, the output of the educational system when the student is still within the age of compulsory education (before the age of 16), when it has surpassed it but it is still a minor (16 and 17 years) and when he is of age (18 years of age or more)?. In a strict sense, if the abandonment is defined as a choice, could only conceptuarse itself as the third course. The second would be an option of the family, or of those who hold parental authority or guardianship of the child, but not on the part of the child, even if I could desire with all their forces. The first, in the end, it would be simply a case of abandonment of the student by the institution, and not the opposite, whatever the attitudes of the family and of the child.

Otherwise it is obvious that the abandonment of fact (chronic absenteeism) usually lead to failure, and that failure can lead to absenteeism and abandonment. The absenteeism repeated is almost always the prelude (although not the only) of the failure is a common place well-known by teachers and counselors. You may not have much in mind that the neglect may simply be the consequence of the failure or its anticipation. The student who, say, comes out of THAT without graduation and does not re-enroll in anything, even in a formation of the type ISCED 3C, it is likely to do so because it does not expect to get any success in them, that is, because you don’t want to harvest more failures; the student who leaves THAT or post-secondary upper-half of the course, or after you finish it, maybe without appearing even to part of the subjects, is likely to do so because already anticipating his failure and would prefer to avoid the pain or the work of harvest; the student leaves any school year with the condition of failure (certificate in IT or without the title in the post-compulsory) where you can repeat the course to try again, choose that condition through the decision to leave.

In fact, when the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), or other instances qualify of early School leavers is the case for all young people over eighteen years old who have not obtained a secondary education diploma in post-compulsory secondary type FILM 3A or 3B (high school or CFGM among us), or pursuing studies that lead to it, are including in this all the cases of failure in the previous stages, although other effects are considered to be different from the abandonment on the part of those who have already met the requirements to transmit them.

In reality, the emphasis on one term or another has a lot to do with how each society provides for its educational system. It is notable that the term failure is commonly used in Europe, where the issue of abandonment, and much more the neglect referred to an objective postobligatorio, has become a subject of attention in recent times, while in the united States there is little talk of failure and yes of abandonment (drop out). We can suggest the hypothesis that corresponds to worry about the abandonment of a society little class, in the strong sense, a society real or supposedly open where the educational system allows everyone to continue a long time through a plurality of paths and opportunities, as happens in the high school american, in which it is expected that all students remain until the age of 18 even though programs and contents different. On the contrary, are more concerned about the failure of the societies which, like european ones, are still school systems segregated, in which students are divided into branches clearly distinct before the term of the obligation, or have been addressed by reforms comprehensive but in the midst of great debates about its suitability, what this usually means in the capacity of teens to continue the same studies throughout the compulsory period. A system selective for all, as the american, or strongly selective, but with a differentiated offering for all, as the German is concerned by the abandonment, since it offers several variants of success, to the extent of all; a selective system with a supply unit for all, as the French or the Spanish, are concerned by the failure, since it only offers a form of success but doubt that it is within the reach of all; a selective system and with an offer directed only to a few, like the ancient Spanish or French, worried by the delay, since it took for granted the ability of those few to get the success.

As we argue below, a broad consideration of the achievement in the field of education should be concerned not only for those who are out of school without obtaining the reported results –whether by abandonment, by not following, by choice or by lack of supply– and those who remain in it for not achieving them (failure), but certainly also by those who remain, and end up by reaching them with a high cost in time and effort (failure in the sense of inefficiency), and even for those who reach in the time and effort normal, or with less than that, but the only thing that binds them to the institution and its purposes set forth is that extrinsic reward (failure as a demobilization).

For the moment, however, we will opt for a broad conception of the failure to include simply all forms of non-attainment of the school goals set forth by the society and that can be estimated as the minimum reasonable according to the labour market, namely, a title regular postobligatorio. This broad definition implies that not only are the goals of the individual, which it can achieve (success) or not reached (failure), but also the objectives of the society, and that fails when it does not reaches, which are not achieved by individuals, whether as the immediate result of an act of selection (by the institution) or of choice (by the individual). We also include, therefore, those reaching the compulsory age and the minimum qualifications corresponding choose not to continue their studies or are constrained to do so for whatever reasons. In this sense, the scope of school failure becomes coextensivo with early school leaving, and is manifested as a definition problem, with certain ambiguities (how can you fail in what it attempts?), but unless the abandonment (how could abandon what does not start or whatever you get kicked out?). Let’s say that every time a citizen does not reach school goals that the economy and society are considered and handled as a minimum suitable and enforceable, even if not required, we are faced with a failure of the individual, of society and of the institution in charge of mediating between the two for that purpose, in the same way that unemployment can be seen as a failure, individual and collective, although the work is not an obligation.

  • http://www.rtve.es/television/para-todos-la-2/
  • http://enguita.info/
  • ENGUITA, M. F., Luis Mena and Jaime Riviere (2010): Failure and dropout in Spain. Social Studies Collection, No. 29, “La Caixa”Foundation.



  1. From the original text I have eliminated the notes, references and some explanations in parentheses. On page 19, third paragraph of the original text, there is a typo that the authors I have clarified that snuck by the successive revisions of the drafts. Where it says, in respect to the repetitions, “(the limit, in the Spanish case, it is up to three in elementary, two in high school mandatory, and countless in the post-compulsory)”, it is really only once for the primary, according to the still current LOE of 2006. See Paragraph 4 of Article 20 [↩]

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