Dropouts show schools are failing students, says expert

by James Reid13 Jul 2015

Professor John Smyth from the University of Huddersfield has urged schools to fit the needs of their students and be proactive about helping them to be engaged with their learning.

Smyth said schools had “blown it” by failing to tailor classroom lessons for disengaged kids.

“I think as adults we have blown it in the sense that we aren’t doing the best we can be doing for large numbers of kids,” Smyth told The Courier Mail last week.

“Kids know what’s not working for them and kids know what needs to work for them,”

Smyth said there was an increasing sense among students that they are not able to take control of their learning, leading to disengagement.

 “It’s about how we get the schools to fit the kids, rather than the kids fitting into the schools. That means being much more attentive to what’s going on in their lives,” Smyth said, but added the solution would not be cheap.

“The cost of not fixing the problem is much more expensive than the relatively small amount it’s going to cost in the long run.”

While the issue of student disengagement remains a problem in disadvantaged areas, the retention rate of students in Queensland public schools has risen since 2000, with Year 10-11 retention rates at 93.1% in 2014.

The Queensland Department of Education has a range of support services in place for pupils at risk of dropping out before Year 12.

Such services include youth support co-ordinators, guidance officers and school-based police officers.

University of Sydney expert in psychology of education, Andrew Martin, said if left unaddressed the problem would only get worse.

“If left unattended and unaddressed, the strong get stronger and the weak flat line or become relatively weaker,” Martin said.
 

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