A Contemporary Study with Early School Leavers: Pathways and Social Processes of Leaving High School

Kate Tilleczek, Bruce Ferguson, Dara Roth Edney, Anneke Rummens, Katherine Boydell, Michael Mueller

Abstract


This article provides an account and discussion of research processes used in a contemporary study of early school leaving in Ontario, Canada. The Ontario Early School Leavers Study was conducted in conversation with 193 young people who left school prior to graduating, their educators and parents.  The study was informed by a review of international literatures which point to the need for innovative social approaches and youth-attuned methodologies in the study of early school leaving.  We present our research processes as informed by this literature and then present new analyses that illustrate critical social processes in early school leaving. The findings present unique data to show three pathways to early leaving and a constellation of risk and protective situations encountered by these young people along the way.  Risk situations included the daily social workings of poverty, low socioeconomic status, the need to take on early adult roles, “place”, academic and social disengagement, negative relations with families and/or school personnel, and inflexible or unsupportive school structures. Protective situations were encountered in supportive families; from parents and teachers; in schools that were caring, flexible, and proactive; and in processes of self determination. The perspectives of the young people are discussed in relation to the international literature and the perspectives of 71 parents and educators who participated in the study.  Impacts on practices in secondary schools suggest that early school leaving be recognized and treated as a heterogeneous, complex social process occurring at and across the nexus of families, schools, youth cultures and communities.

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Canadian Journal of Family and Youth / Le Journal Canadien de Famille et de la Jeunesse
2008-2014 | ISSN 1718-9748