March 6, 2015
School drop out rates: look at reasons, not figures – senior educator

A senior educator says that the high drop out rate in St Vincent and the Grenadines should not be addressed in terms of numbers but rather, the focus should be on the reasons.

Deputy principal at the Central Leeward Secondary School Philbert John spoke to SEARCHLIGHT recently, after it was reported that SVG has the highest secondary school drop out rate in the sub-region – according to the OECS Education Statistical Digest 2012/13.{{more}}

“The public, rather than lament the extent of the problem, they should look at the reasons,” he asserted. “Forget about the extent of the problem; let’s look at solutions!”

John, who has 33 years experience in teaching, said that the statistical figures don’t present any reasons, so assumptions are made.

“Based on experience, I think drop out [rate is affected by] factors associated with the home, the school itself, and the wider community.”


John explained: “This is where students are too old for the particular age group, and they are not succeeding to go to the next grade, so they have to leave.”

He spoke of a 16-year-old who has remained in Form 1 since age 12, pointing out that at some schools, students are asked to leave if they fail a level on two consecutive attempts.

John also said that the onus is not necessarily on the Ministry of Education when it comes to re-assigning such students to other school, but instead depends on whether their parents request it.

Voluntary withdrawal/termination

“I’ve witnessed parents making the decision, for whatever reason known only to them, for withdrawing their children from school.”

John said that he knows of two current cases like this, where one of them was withdrawn because of a “promise to go to Canada”. However, said student is still at home waiting on these plans to be fulfilled.

He explained that he does not consider this to be migration because, as has happened in the past, the student may end up not going abroad at all.

“Unresolved behavioural issues” was another point he touched on; where students may be sent home for undesirable conduct at school, but would be allowed back in on the condition that teachers can discuss the matter with the parents.

“The parents refuse to show up with the child… so they just keep them home.”


John said that while some parents inform the school that their children will be migrating, many others don’t.

“Some, you just miss them and you hear they gone overseas to live,” he said, also noting that in some instances, migration is only realised when the students’ new school contacts the old one for transcripts.

John also explained that when parents formally notify schools, the students are not recorded as dropouts, but most likely recorded as “failed to complete”.

Students expelled

John explained that many students who are expelled for behaviour that goes against the schools’ codes don’t bother to return to the system.

He was quick to point out, however, that there is nothing stopping expelled students from enrolling at other educational institutions.


John identified this reason as being among the most popular reasons why students drop out from the education system within SVG.

“But that is ameliorated by the fact that the young ladies have the opportunity to continue their education. And, again, it depends on the parents,” he added.

“Some of them [parents] say since you breed on me, me nah send you back no school again.”

John estimated that at the school he teaches, of the 150 students who enrolled at the Form 1 level, only 48 are now in Form 5. He said that in casual conversation with a group of them recently, he inquired about what had happened to the drop outs. One of the most popular explanations was pregnancy.


“Their parents want them to come [to school], we want them to come, but they just not coming,” lamented John.

He explained that this is usually more prevalent among boys; but that when it involves girls, it is often when they are involved in relationships with the opposite sex that their parents don’t approve of.

Family conflict

John further identified family conflicts as a reason why student don’t complete secondary school – and it is usually conflict between the mother and father.

“This tends to affect the child; father not funding up, the child staying at home to the point where you could call them a drop out.”

The deputy principal also identified ill health and extreme poverty/deprivation as factors leading to student drop out, but said that in this day and age, those are rare occurrences.

With regard to the latter, he said that even though poverty does exist, there are programmes in secondary schools that support children from such backgrounds (by providing financial assistance and otherwise) and enable them to continue their education.

“A lot of things are done to help keep students in school.”

John also lauded the efforts of his school’s principal Dora James, who he said has been pushing for programmes outside of what the Ministry of Education offers to be implemented at Central Leeward Secondary.

“She has been successful in getting UNESCO to sponsor a skills training programme for students who are not achieving academically,” he explained. “She could do more but she is depending on agencies out there to assist her.