Drop-out rates… Who’s responsible?

June has arrived and with it the end of the first academic semester of the year. This period comes with mixed feelings, feeling of duty fulfilled for a term well worked, but also a kind of uncertainty whether or not the groups will remain the same for the following term.

In regular schools, enrolments are compulsory as well as taking the whole course, but in Private Language Schools [PLSs], as they are “free courses” as called in  Brazil, there is no obligation to attend the whole course. So, back to the calendar, the period we are living, who is responsible to keep students in the school?

Some people think the institute, the school, the institution is a detached entity and therefore, students are for the institution to keep… But is it so? Is retention a mere index in management?

I believe that a school is a very complex structure with absolute dependent cogs that may harm the whole process if not properly connected. From management, teachers, secretaries to the cleaners, every member of the staff is responsible for making this gear oiled and in full function. We are all responsible to make the best of efforts to keep the students satisfied. There is a need for full involvement, in action, from every single member of the staff.

If there is no structure to be followed, no procedures, no syllabus, the school is not able to pass the image of a serious institution,  but rules with no communication and compromise, do not suffice.

Schools need infra-structure, but good, well planned and well delivered lessons provide results and so students maintain their interest to keep up studying. Organised methodology and positive feedback also contribute to the success of the learning environment.

Reducing drop-out rates has become top priority in most schools. Not only because of the business per se, but for the real benefit of students’ learning process, the achievement of the educational dimension.

Drop-outs can have academic, social or emotional origin. Noticing students’ involvement and progress in class and taking true interest in them help flagging any possible trouble they are having which might even lead them to quit the course. When facing academic challenges and difficulties, students tend to decide to avoid this problem by choosing not to continue the course, as they are not compulsory. The issue is that when a student quits, chances of his or her return are minimal.

So, what can be done to minimise drop-outs?

I don’t think there is a right answer for that, or a fixed procedure, but my opinion is that students are full responsibility of every single person in a school and each individual must be aware of that. Attention and care can make all the difference.

In this period of world cup, when it’s so clear that knowing English is imperative, let’s pay attention to retention rates for the sake of our students, first of all!

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Beatriz Meneguetti

Mª Beatriz Magalhães Silva Meneguetti Teacher, teacher trainer, school director and sworn translator with over 30 years’ experience, graduated in English, post graduated in methodology, linguistics, school management and marketing. Holder of major proficiency certificates from Cambridge and Michigan Universities and holder of the DELTA and MA in Professional Development for Language Education from Chichester University. Academic director of ABCI - Brazilian Association of Culturas Inglesas.

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