En la actualidad, el fracaso escolar constituye uno de los principales problemas del sistema educativo español. Durante los últimos veinte años, se ha producido un importante avance en las tasas de escolarización de los jóvenes hasta los 16 años y se ha conseguido la universalización de la educación de ese grupo de población. Ante esa situación, uno de los retos más importantes de nuestro país es que los estudiantes continúen con los estudios post-secundarios y obtengan el título correspondiente.
El trabajo recoge un apartado dedicado a la definición del concepto de fracaso escolar y a su medición a través de diferentes indicadores, incluido el abandono temprano educativo. Después de revisar las diferentes acepciones de fracaso escolar, en el siguiente apartado se realiza una comparación con Europa para contextualizar la situación española y comparar el nivel de fracaso escolar de España con distintos países europeos, concluyendo que todavía queda un largo camino por recorrer. Además, aunque el fracaso escolar es un problema generalizado que afecta a todo el sistema educativo español, es cierto que existen diferencias considerables por Comunidades Autónomas en el periodo analizado (2001-2008).
La metodología empleada, a través del análisis de correlación, muestra que existen una serie de factores que explican el fenómeno del fracaso escolar, entre otros, el PIB per cápita, la estructura del mercado laboral, los diferentes criterios de titulación entre regiones, la trayectoria educativa de las Comunidades Autónomas, así como el nivel de gasto público educativo.
En las conclusiones se plantean algunas recomendaciones dirigidas a las autoridades educativas, tanto a nivel regional como central, para que presten una mayor atención al fenómeno del fracaso escolar a través de medidas que promuevan la reducción del mismo especialmente en la educación infantil y primaria; una mayor flexibilidad del currículo; y un apoyo más individualizado a los alumnos con mayores problemas de fracaso escolar y a los equipos de dirección de los centros que cuenten con una presencia más acusada de este fenómeno.
School failure represents one of the main problems in the school system in Spain nowadays. In the last twenty years, there has been an important advance in enrolment of youngsters (until the age of 16 years old) with the full internationalization of this population. Nowadays, the main challenge of the Spanish school system is that students continue up to post-secondary studies and obtain a certification. According to OECD experts, one of the main weaknesses of the Spanish education system is the insufficient population with post-compulsory studies, against the high number of people with primary education level and with tertiary education level in relation to the average of the European countries.
The work starts from the premise of the complex meaning and measure of Scholastic failure: school dropout and early school leaving. After reviewing the different indicators and variables use to measure school failure, we give way to the comparison of the Spanish situation and some other European countries. However, there are important difficulties to compare the figures of school failure across European countries, above all, by the differences in the way of achieving the lower secondary education degree. In Spain, for example, the fact of not obtaining a certification in the compulsory secondary level prevents the continuity of post-compulsory studies. This situation is due to the peculiarities of the Spanish education system that advocate to essential differences in school failure with other European education results, such as the case of United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, etc. Mainly, for this reason, reports and studies about school failure use comparisons of skills among students through testing results, for example in PISA. With this database, the school failure in Spain is positioned in values similar to the OECD average.
Although school failure is a common problem in the whole Spanish school system, the differences among their regions are still very remarkable in the period analysed (2001-2008). However, although these differences have increased significantly in the last school year, in the available data (2007-08), a reduction of school failure has occurred in almost all Spanish regions. This positive development is confirmed by data in progress during the period 2008-09 which will be soon published by the Ministry of Education, allowing the authors to emphasize certain optimism in this matter for the near future.
Noteworthy is the fact that with the same regulation in school system at the national level, there are important differences among regions in the figures of school failure. Most of the indicators show differences in the results of students in their academic career before completing the compulsory secondary education, such as the educational skills acquired. This circumstance cannot be explained directly on different regional educational policies if not the socio-cultural, educational and economic factors of each region. For example, the called “Foral” regions have more funding due to their regional finance systems and this fact leads to best results in Basque country and Navarre in terms of lower school failure.
The methodology, by means of correlation analysis, allows to detect a series of factors that reinforce the causes of the phenomenon of School failure, among others, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita, the industrial structure of the labour market, the differences in the criteria to achieve the certificates among the different Autonomous Communities, the school tradition and experience of the Spanish regions and the level of public expenditure. One of the most important factors that explain the difference across regions is the educational background. The school failure occurs in compulsory secondary education, but begins to appear before, with repetitions of academic year at the end of primary school and early high school. Therefore, there is a positive correlation between repetitions before the age of 15 and school failure. Therefore, the regions in which students show a better academic career without repetitions have concentrated better results in the compulsory secondary education in terms of skills and qualification.
As regards the acquisition of skills in the Spanish case, the authors use results in the PISA tests or diagnostic tests especially made for the Spanish Ministry of Education. They also check that there is a positive relationship between these results and obtaining the title in secondary education for all regions. However, through this comparison it is concluded that the qualification criteria may differ among regions, as in the European case, due to differences in both values. All these data show that school failure can be explained by the achievements in the early years of schooling.
The stock of human capital accumulated by the regions is another factor that affects, in this case negatively in the level of school failure, so that human capital measured in number of years of education of individuals by region seems that it tends to perpetuate itself in time. Therefore, the fact that the region has more human capital among its population positively influences the level of training of the young population.
Another factor that has an impact on school failure is also the economic and productive structure of the region. The authors prove that the distribution of the employed population in the several productive sectors is an important determinant of school failure. The regions with the highest percentage of employed population in the building sector, show higher rates of school failure. The low qualifications required in this sector could explain rapid output of young people to the labor market, without just finishing lower secondary education. However, high-level industrial regions require more skilled labor, so in these regions there are stronger incentives to successfully complete the compulsory secondary education. Finally, the authors found an incidence of educational investment in school failure. In this way, the regions that make major efforts on education expenditure per student get a higher percentage of graduates in secondary education students.
In the conclusions, they point out several recommendations to reduce school failure. First, the Spanish education system has to change the peculiarities of regulation currently associated with the school failure. Spanish authorities must forget to associate the idea of not obtaining a certification or a degree in secondary education with school failure, which prevents students who have not obtained this title may continue. In this sense, it is necessary to promote strategies of training for students who do not successfully complete compulsory education: beginners programs of vocational training (that could access students aged 15), access to vocational training of medium level by testing access and the possibility to combine work with study (part-time studies from age 16). These are measures that could close the Spanish data of school failure with the rest of European countries.
Second, the authors highlight the importance of educational investment to reduce school failure. They emphasize the positive correlation between public expenditure on non-university education and regions with less rates of “dropout”. As we have seen, economic, educational and socio-cultural structures of the regions have decisively influence in the educational path of young people. But in addition, we consider very positive the influence of educational investment (especially in expenditure on pre-school/nursery and primary education) to reduce school failure across different regions and to win back those students who leave the education system early. The earlier the detection of risk of school failure occurs and before they put into practice mechanisms to lighten the school duration that young people are suffering, will result in more students completed primary education with the right age and continue with their studies obtaining the title in the compulsory secondary education. In this sense, we will release a large amount of public resources that are currently used in the successive repetitions of the students in compulsory education and investing these resources in secondary education in the future.
Third, the authors argue to intensify support for the centers and educational institutions which have a greater number of students at risk of school failure and social exclusion, with support measures individual students and the management of these leaders in the centers, paying due attention to the “complex” phenomenon of school failure though all the central and regional governments. On the other hand, Spain must achieve greater flexibility in the curriculum to obtain a greater number of students who obtain a degree that will make possible access to the labor market or allowed to continue their post-compulsory studies. In this sense, "compensatory education programs" could be strengthened with the aim of improving the educational indicators of the students who begin to manifest signs of school failure. At the same time, it is necessary to offer the possibility of a curriculum diversified for students with higher risk of school failure; to increase the supply of places in training programs and to make flexible access to the intermediate degree training programs for these students with educational problems.
The final conclusion to be drawn in this work is that all the education (central and regional) authorities have to pay the due attention to School failure through educational policies that succeed in reducing the delay in early childhood and primary education and to pay a greater attention to individual students and school teams.