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School failure: some causes and determining factors

School failure: some causes and determining factors

June 24, 2021

In the last decade it has been observed a marked increase in the prevalence of early school leaving of the Spanish population, going from 14% in 2011 to 20% in 2015, to the point where this country has the highest index with respect to the rest of the European Union (Eurostat, 2016).

The difficulties most commonly detected refer to alterations in reading or dyslexia (with an average rate of 10%) or in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (with a proportion that varies between 2 and 5% of students).

However, there are other problems that, without being as frequent as those indicated, can cause the existence of a learning disorder significant enough to eventually lead to cases of school failure.


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School failure and its causes

School failure, understood as the difficulty to assimilate and internalize the academic contents established by the educational system based on the age and development of the child, can be motivated by multiple causes of different kinds. It can not be considered, therefore, that the responsibility should fall exclusively on the student, but that both the educational community and the family environment have a very relevant influence.

Among the factors that can precipitate the appearance of school failure In the student, the following are distinguished:


  • Aspects related to the student's level of psychic-physical maturity, such as psychomotor or cognitive abilities (attention, memory, perception, etc.).
  • Specific developmental disorders, linked to the existence of significant difficulties in basic skills such as reading (dyslexia), writing (dysgraphia) or mathematical reasoning (dyscalculia).
  • Learning disorders, referred for example to the presence of more clinical entities such as Attention Deficit Disorder and its different modalities (with the presence of hyperactivity, combination, impulsivity, etc.).
  • Pedagogical disorders, due to a difference of adjustment between the school objectives proposed to the student and their adaptation to them.
  • Strictly psychological disorders, such as the presence of fears, accused fears, phobias, emotional and behavioral inhibition and / or excessive shyness.
  • Other problems related to the basic skills of memory, attention, verbal or numerical aptitude that inevitably affect the student's performance or other problems derived from the overload of activities or contents to be learned.

On the other hand, as referred to above, there are a number of circumstances that refer to the poor functioning, in some cases, of the education system , which considerably aggravate the consequences arising from the existence of the factors listed above. Methodological issues, teaching attitudes, non-individualized and obsolete teaching styles cause that the teaching figure may not be sufficiently prepared to attend to these students with the indicated characteristics, in themselves more complex.


Other factors that increase school failure

Next, they are exposed three of the problems that usually go unnoticed since they differ from the usual difficulties related to literacy.

In the same way as this, those that are exposed below can be the cause of the student's school failure if they are not detected and they are adequately intervened.

Acalculia and numerical reasoning problems

Acalculia is circumscribed within the so-called Specific Learning Disorders and is defined, as proposed by Salomon Eberhard Henschen (who coined the term for the first time in 1919) for a type of alteration of the calculus that may be derived from a brain injury or also due to the presence of difficulties in the course of the academic apprenticeships

According to this author, acalculia does not coexist with aphasic symptomatology or linguistic dysfunction in general. Later, his disciple Berger, made the distinction between primary and secondary acalculia. In the first case, reference is made to a type of alteration of the specific ability to calculate and not related to the deviations of other basic cognitive processes such as memory or attention. On the other hand, secondary acalculia has a broader and more general character and is linked to alterations in these basic cognitive processes.

The Henri Hecaen classifications emerged from the initial approaches , who distinguished between alecic alchemic (understanding of mathematical characters) and aggravated (written expression of arithmetic characters), spatial (arrangement and location of numbers, signs and other mathematical elements in space) and arithmetic (correct application of arithmetic operations) .

Some peculiarities of calculation problems

McCloskey and Camarazza have described a differentiation between the nature of the alteration in the processing or numerical reasoning (comprehension and production of numerical characters) with respect to those more related to the calculation process (procedures to carry out arithmetic operations).

In relation to the first type of difficulty, it is possible to distinguish between two components, which can lead to two types of alterations: the elements involved in the production of Arabic numbers and those that intervene in the production of verbal numbers. This last component consists in turn of two procedures: lexical processing (phonological, related to the verbal sound of numerical characters, and graphological, set of written signs and symbols) and syntactic (relations between elements to give an overall meaning of the the numerical expression).

In reference to alterations in the calculation It should be noted that proper functioning must be available at the level of previous numerical processing, since the ability to correctly understand and produce the numerical elements that confirm a certain mathematical operation is known, as well as the relationships between the different arithmetic characters and their operation. .

Even so, counting on an adequate capacity of numerical processing, there can be a difficulty in executing a correct order in the sequence of steps to follow to carry out this type of procedures or in the memorization of the usual arithmetic combinations (as per example the multiplication tables).

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Psychopedagogical disorder due to lack of attention

The Psychopedagogical Disorder occurs when the student is not able to assume the psycho-pedagogical objectives proposed for that specific academic year. This fact derives in that an accumulation of unlearned psycho-pedagogical learning that are piling up in the subsequent courses if it is not detected and it is acted upon when the first confirmatory indicators are observed.

The subjects that are most frequently affected are the elementary ones : language and mathematics. Usually the origin of this type of complications derives from:

  • The application of teaching methodologies not adapted to the particular characteristics of the student's learning, either by excess (infradotados students) or by defect (gifted students).
  • Parental education styles that do not emphasize the relevance of acquisition of learning.
  • Different characteristics of the student with respect to his classmates (presence of behavioral alteration, poor competence in a certain area, etc.).

This type of alteration differs from ADHD since the latter must meet criteria in the three affected areas: attention, impulsivity and / or hyperactivity.

The intellectual giftedness

Regarding intellectual giftedness, there are several factors to consider in the prevention of school failure in students with very high intellectual capacities:

The awareness of the environment

It's very important the awareness and assimilation by the educational community that this type of group presents certain characteristics and, therefore, special educational needs.

Institutional changes to create inclusive educational centers

Once the previous point has been overcome, it must be an adaptation of the general educational system to create educational institutions (schools, institutes, universities, etc.) that allow to attend this type of student body. Equally important is the fact of providing these institutions with the material, economic, personal and professional resources that allow the institution itself to offer its educational service appropriately.

The myth of chronological age

Another important issue is that the traditionally accepted idea that an academic year should correspond to a given chronological age should be discarded. It seems to be assimilated to a greater extent in the case of students "repeaters", but not so much in those who should be more "advanced". As it has been transmitted throughout the whole agenda, each student has some peculiarities and it must be the educational system that adapts to the characteristics of the student and not the opposite. Thus, the consideration of implementing curricular adaptations for this group must be applied without reluctance and in a generalized manner.

Thus, the objectives that must be pursued in said curricular adaptations They should be routed to:

  • Encourage the divergent and creative thinking of the students, in order to enable them to develop all the potential that is possible;
  • Enhance scientific reasoning and logical development.
  • Offer free access to more complex educational media, especially in more specialized academic areas such as music, science or art.
  • Encourage and motivate the development of potential through rewards and positive reinforcements such as contests, exhibitions or debates where the gifted student gets the satisfaction of their work and effort.

In conclusion

After what has been said in the text, it seems relevant to consider all the factors that are causing such high rates of school dropout .

Far from being exclusively responsible for the presence or absence of the will to learn in the student, there are many other aspects related to the type of education that is taught, the applied pedagogical methodology, the habits and values ​​transmitted by the family in relation to the learning that must be taken. also in mind to achieve an improvement in the goal of reducing the current percentage of school failure.

Bibliographic references:

  • Escudero, J. M, González, M. T., and Martínez, B. (2009). School failure as educational exclusion: understanding, policies and practices. Iberoamerican Journal of Education, 50, 41-64.
  • Marchesi, A. (2003). School failure in Spain. Madrid: Alternatives Foundation. Working Document 11/2003.

Success at School vs Success in Life (June 2021).


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