Call for school dropouts to factor into policy, tracked with reduction targets
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Cape Town - The Zero Dropout Campaign has called for the school dropout rate to be factored into policy frameworks and set reduction targets.
The Zero Dropout Campaign was presenting its research on the school dropout crisis to the portfolio committee on basic education yesterday, following the release of what they said were worrying pupil dropout projections by the Department of Basic Education since the reopening of schools.
According to the organisation, as many as 40% pupils who start Grade1 would exit the schooling system before completing Grade 12 because of various influences and conditions inside and outside of the school environment.
Zero Dropout Campaign programme director Merle Mansfield said school closures, together with the economic impact of the lockdown, had placed pupils already at risk of dropout into deeper financial, psychosocial and academic distress.
“Now more than ever, we need to build resilience into our schooling system. The first step involves factoring the issue of dropout into policy and planning frameworks and setting targets for dropout reduction.
"If we set targets for dropout, we will be able to hold national and provincial departments accountable for dropout statistics and the effectiveness of their interventions. By shining a light on dropout at the highest level, we can set a cohesive plan into action that will ultimately lead to improved education outcomes for the system as a whole,” she said.
Mansfield said collecting detailed information about pupils could inform a more attentive and effective education system in which every learner was supported to finish matric.
She said the education system already had relatively strong information management systems, however, these were not used effectively to track and prevent dropout due to the type of information collected, the manner in which the data is put in the system, and how the data is presented.
“South Africa simply does not have the right types of records (datasets) to measure and monitor school dropout properly. While there are several datasets tracking matric exam results, annual school surveys, and master school lists, this information is only at the ‘aggregate’ (collective) level, not at the level of individual learners. Learner-level information could help us flag which young people are most at risk of dropping out,” she said.
Basic Education Department researcher Stephen Taylor said there were no data to indicate what dropout would occur after the 2020 academic year, but he said there were reasons to expect short-term and long-term negative impacts on dropout.
“Short-term impacts on children in Grades 10-12 losing school time could encourage youth about their chances of completing NSC (National Senior Certificate) or lead to school push out.
"Some international evidence evidence shows time out of school leads to other activities and pregnancies, which in turn could impact dropout.”