Divorce a factor behind children leaving school early, study finds

A study carried out by the National Observatory for Living with Dignity has found that divorce is a major contributing factor to students deciding to leave school early

Divorce is one of the most significant contributors to students’ decision to leave school early, a study on early school leaving by President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society has found.

The study, carried out by the National Observatory for Living with Dignity within the foundation, found that what students’ experience at home impacted their decision to leave school prior to obtaining the desired qualifications.

“Divorce may cause the most profound, emotional trauma and leaves the biggest impact on children, particularly in low socio-economic status contexts defined by limited social and cultural capital,” the observatory’s chair Carmel Borg said.

“Children living in families where parents are divorced are often in constant, apparent or hidden mourning that often leads to early school leaving.”

The study, which was lead by researcher professor Milosh Raykov, addressed what are referred to Early Leavers from Education and Training (ELET) students, aged between 18 and 24, who leave compulsory school without at least five Secondary Education Certificate (SEC) passes, and who are not enrolled in any educational programme or training.   

The study follows the publication of the latest National Statistic Office figures, which in October showed that although the proportion of early school leavers had dropped to 17.7% in 2017 from 20.3% in 2014, the country was still far from reaching the government’s 2020 target of 10%.

The observatory said the study had adopted a social justice approach to understanding the phenomenon, where ELTECT is seen as characteristic of a society where success is still heavily dependent on the socio-economic status, and of a school system that fails to guarantee education success to all.

Borg recommended that, given the strong correlation between parents’ socio-economic status and their children’s education, it is important that serious action is taken to close this “parental gap.”

“Building parental knowledge of how to create a positive and enabling educational environment at home is a must,” Borg said, educational disadvantages start early and are cumulative in nature.

However, researchers warned that while a positive educational environment at home was crucial, quality schools were also strategically central to achieving social justice in education.

Foundation director general Ruth Farrugia said that this latest research continued to underscore strong links between educational achievement and socioeconomic status.

“In light of increasing research evidence, we cannot ignore our obligations to support children at risk of poverty and suffering social inequalities, if we hope to secure wellbeing for all. We know that the decision to leave formal education and training early is not sudden. It is a gradual accumulation of complex social factors, all of which can and must be addressed through early identification, intervention, and holistic support,” she said.

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