“Hidden Dropouts”: A Reexamination of School Disengagement in Israel

“Hidden dropouts” are students who are enrolled in school and may even attend, but exhibit aspects of disengagement and alienation from school and studies. Disengagement is a major concern of the education system as it is a major barrier to success in school and may lead to fully dropping out of the education system.   In 2001, at the request of the Knesset Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute prepared a report that, for the first time in Israel, attempted to provide a definition of disengagement, estimate its extent and examine its characteristics. The report was based on the Israeli results from the HBSC Survey of the World Health Organization (WHO). Following the report, a Knesset Committee was established to address the issue. In the years since, the Ministry of Education has taken a number of steps and initiatives in light of the Committee’s recommendations.

Due to changes over time in the education system, the need arose to reexamine the extent of the problem. The present study, which began with a review of the recent literature, led to a new and more focused definition of  hidden dropouts. Based on this definition, and using data from the 2012 international PISA study, new estimates were developed of the extent and characteristics of the problem among 15-year-olds. Based on student reports, our study examined three dimensions of disengagement: behavioral (absenteeism and tardiness), emotional (alienation from school) and cognitive/perceptional (a negative perception of school and a sense that it has little contribution).

The study examined the following questions:

  • What is the extent of disengagement among students in Israel and vs. other OECD countries?
  • How do the rates differ among key population groups ?
  • What changes have taken place in the extent of disengagement over the years?
  • What additional difficulties characterize students who are disengaged?

The findings, which were presented to the Parliamentary Committee on the Rights of the Child and relevant policymakers at the Ministry of Education, suggest programmatic directions to address this important challenge. They focus attention on the various dimensions of disengagement and on the groups in which it is more prevalent and provides a basis for early detection of disengagement. It provides a baseline for further follow-up of changes in the extent of the problem.

The study was commissioned by the Knesset Committee on the Rights of the Child and funded with the assistance of the Knesset Research and Information Center.

Citations in the professional and academic literature

Rubin, L., Belmaker, I., Somekh, E., Urkin, J., Rudolf, M., Honovich, M., … & Grossman, Z. (2017). Maternal and child health in Israel: building lives. The Lancet389(10088), 2514-2530.

Razer, M., & Friedman, V. J. (2017). From exclusion to excellence: Building restorative relationships to create inclusive schools. Springer.

Razer, M. (2018). From power struggle to benevolent authority and empathic limit-setting: Creating inclusive school practice with excluded students through action research. Action Research, 1476750318776730.