When it comes to dropping out of high school, there are so many factors that can lead to this decision.
Here in oil country, the allure of fast money can be too much to resist for some people. With easy money at hand, the importance of education can easily be lost.
Whatever may be the reason for dropping out, all hope is not lost.
Many dropouts do in fact return to school later on, and even those who don’t may secure a future for themselves.
Sometimes traditional learning environments do not work for everyone.
The real stories of these kids are riddled with different struggles and instances that lead up to their withdrawal from school.
To understand what makes young adults leave school, 11 different professionals teamed up in a collaborative research effort entitled A Narrative Inquiry into the Experiences of Early School Leavers, published in 2010 by the Alberta Centre for Child, Family and Community Research.
The researchers compiled stories from 19 Alberta youth who had left school early. Participants were gathered by advertising on posters and online at schools and at youth centres.
Each story is different, but all of them share some similarities.
The most common factor is that many of these students felt disconnected from their teachers. They did not know their teachers, and their teachers did not really know their students.
One young man was missing most of his classes, and his school had an action plan to help him, but did not follow through with it.
Another student who was having problems with some of her teachers was told by the principal to not say anything, in case it just made the situation worse.
Other factors that led to dropping out included pregnancy, drugs, alcohol and a complicated living situation at home. Several of the students came from a dysfunctional home environment. Many of these kids had almost completed high school, in many instances because of the support of the education system and its teachers.
This research is available in its entirety at www.research4children.com.
Melanie Raymond wrote a research paper based on data collected by Statistics Canada from the academic years 1990-91 and 2004-05. It is called High School Dropouts Returning to School, and was published in 2008, and is available online.
Raymond reports in her paper that the dropout rate in Canada has steadily declined from 21 per cent to 14 per cent for men and from 16 per cent to nine per cent for women.
The same research suggests dropouts are more likely to come from a single parent household, low-income family or a family where the primary caregivers do not have a post secondary degree or diploma.
According to Raymond and her research, young women are four times more likely than young men to cite personal reasons, such pregnancy, family problems or health issues, as their reason for dropping out. On the other hand, young men are twice as likely to cite their need or wish to work as their reason for dropping out.
Living in Central Alberta, or anywhere in Alberta, has a strong economy that draws many young people away from school. For some the education system may take too long, and unfortunately life does not wait for students to finish high school.
That’s why a prospective dropout (or their parents) should do their research. There are options to traditional public schools. One of these options is an outreach school.
These schools operate with a much lower student body, as few as 30 students in the whole school. The teachers often go by first name basis, and with such a low number of students they are able to get to know each one individually.
Outreach schools also let the student work at their own pace, whether that is fast or slow. The student also must take on the responsibility of monitoring their workload.
For many students, especially those with attendance problems, this system works.
If your teen has dropped out of school, it is important to try to talk to them calmly. Try to get a clear picture of what it was that led to their leaving, and what solutions are at hand.
Positive Parenting appears every week in LIFE. This week’s column was written by Jesseca Johanson with Family Services of Central Alberta. Johanson can be reached by calling 403-343-6400 or www.fsca.ca.