From child labor to low motivation: Why do Chilean students drop out of the school system?

Last week, the Ministry of Education delivered alarming figures: 50,529 students were withdrawn from the Chilean school system from 2021 to 2022. They are students who should be learning Mathematics, Language or Social Sciences, but who simply dropped out of school, college or high school. Ultimately, they broke up. That’s the term the authorities use.

But what leads a family to make the decision to remove their child from the school system? Why does a student impetuously interrupt his training? There are supporters of educational establishments that have a finished analysis. And the reasons are varied.

“The Mineduc Study Center is studying and delving into the reasons that explain the separation of these 50,529 students from regular education, but, according to the data, the analyzes and the conversations we have had with various supporters and actors of the system , there are some hypotheses”, says Minister Marco Antonio Ávila.

What are they? “The economic problems of families are most likely a relevant factor after the disengagement, since this phenomenon is more pronounced in secondary education (scientific-humanist and technical-professional), where the disengagement reaches 2.4% of the enrollment (22,818 students), than in basic education, where disengagement is 1.4% of the enrollment (27,711 students). And it is even more pronounced in technical-professional education”.

“Probably many of these high school students have had to look for a job to support their families, being forced to leave formal education,” adds the Secretary of State, who emphasizes that they have also seen “that many families have lost the link and the value that exists of the pedagogical experience in schools”.

The holders seem to match. Julio Chica, in charge of School Coexistence of the Department of Municipal Education Administration of Independencia, says that “thanks to the work that we have been developing in the area of ​​School Coexistence and with the School Trajectory and Well-being team, we have investigated that the exit of the students from the system is multifactorial”.

And he adds: “In the case of girls and boys, they are linked to determinants of health and incompatibility with the working hours of responsible adults”. But it is not everything, since, he assures, if they belong to migrant families, “the lack of binding support networks is also a factor”. In addition, he states that sometimes foreigners end up changing countries.

On the other hand, with adolescents, he adds, “aspects such as low motivation, mental health problems and poor adherence to treatments of this typealong with the start of child and/or adolescent labor to support family livelihood”. Finally, she says, for women “the work of caring for younger siblings also has an impact.”

In the same way, in Quinta Normal, Jaime Romero, director of Education of the Corporation, points out that between March and October his commune has lost close to 11% of its enrollment. “We don’t know if they finally enrolled in another establishment,” he says.

Thus, he adds that there are three phenomena that he has seen that predominate in desertion: “The first has to do with migration. Students move based on the employment of their parents and migrants often have precarious jobs, so they are constantly on the move. A second has to do with how ineffective the monitoring and care instruments are for chronic absenteeism, a predictor of dropout. And the third has to do with the early insertion of young people into the world of work, based on the socioeconomic conditions of families, which are extremely vulnerable”. And he closes: “Many times students are forced to have to contribute to the family economy and it ends up being a factor in chronic absenteeism and later desertion.”.

Another example. In Central Station, as a context, only this year 462 students have withdrawn from its 12 municipal establishments, although they have not necessarily dropped out of school. “Defection is a complex phenomenon that does not respond to a single variable. Migration processes, job instability, domestic violence, problematic drug use or child laborare some of the factors associated with dropping out of the school system,” says Mayor Felipe Muñoz.

Meanwhile, in Puente Alto, Daniela Torres, secretary of the Health and Education Corporation, says that with the return to face-to-face they have registered approximately 2% dropout, which, she assures, has to do mainly “with the emotional consequences that the pandemic brought, but also to the lives of families”. Likewise, he says that they have investigated behavioral situations. To do this, they have created a program to reintegrate those who have left.

In regions the situation is similar to Independencia and Quinta Normal. Towards Los Ríos, in Valdivia, where its annual enrollment in municipal establishments decreased by 1,014 students from 2019 to dateSandra Ascencio, head of the Education Directorate of the commune, points out that as a service they have detected that school dropouts have various reasons, among which the most notable recently the pandemic. “Students who came from the communes surrounding Valdivia took the option of keeping their children in their communes of residence,” she points out. Where appropriate, they will try to strengthen their integration and pro-retention programs, in order to reverse the stampede of students.

Meanwhile, in the O’Higgins Region, where they point out that according to the Second Follow-up Report of Students with Interrupted or Irregular Educational Trajectory of the Ministry of Education, Until October of this year, 291 of 18,905 students (1.5%) had been withdrawn without enrollmentthe president of the board of the Municipal Corporation, the mayor Juan Ramón Godoy, points out that although there were defections, these, among other reasons, are related to cChange of city or health problems.

Thus, in order to retain students and encourage attendance, the mayor highlights the Crecemos Juntos community plan, “which aims to comprehensively address the socio-emotional aspects of coexistence, gender equality and mental health of all our educational communities, as well as support the continuity and trajectory of the educational process”.

Likewise, in the Region of Ñuble, in the Municipality of Chillán they have paid special attention to school dropouts, “in order to prevent students from abandoning their formal studies,” according to details of Mayor Camilo Benavente. The cases registered in the Community Education Directorate of students who do not continue their studies in 2022 reach 92which represents less than 2% of the total.

The reasons that have been raised for dropping out, in the case of Chillán, have been detected even through formal interviews and, as in the other communes, are varied: “They consider, for example, family demotivation, illnesses of caregivers or guardians, untreated illnesses or disorders such as ASD or others that require neurological care or lack of habits at the family level”, says the highest communal authority.

In this commune, various actions have been followed to address each of the cases of de-schooling, such as a special plan at the Marta Brunet High School, which seeks to fully guarantee educational trajectories.

From child labor to low motivation: Why do Chilean students drop out of the school system? – Third