School Dropouts and School Disengagement

The problem of school dropouts arouses much concern among the Israeli public in general and the education system in particular. This report examines various aspects of this problem in Israel, and explores how best to address it. The report is based on empirical and theoretical knowledge about this problem from Israel and other countries, as well as on integrative statistical analyses of studies recently conducted by the JDC-Brookdale Institute, and of a study of the Social Well-Being, Health and Risk Behaviors of Youth in Israel, conducted by the JDC-Brookdale Institute and Bar-Ilan University(the “HBSC” study, forthcoming).

This report concerns both school “dropouts” – that is, youth who have already left school – and “disengaged” youth – that is, youth who still attend some educational framework, but who are not involved in meaningful learning. School disengagement is expressed through truancy, poor scholastic achievements, alienation from school, and school behavior and social problems.

Principal findings from the study include:

  • There is evidence of a long-term trend of decline in the drop-out rate, while high percentages of students are being identified as being “disengaged” – that is, alienated and detached from school.
  • The main reasons for dropping out are scholastic and behavior problems in adjusting to the school framework; these problems usually begin long before a student actually drops out.
  • The difficulties characteristic of disengaged students and of dropouts were found to be similar. Large percentages of boys and girls in both groups had family problems, difficulties in their relationships with their parents, poor self-image, and engaged in risk behaviors such as use of alcohol.
  • The quality of the frameworks and services available to youths who have already dropped out of the education system was found to be wanting. This is reflected in their extent of coverage, the quality of education they offer, the value of the certificates granted by alternative frameworks and the degree to which they can equip students with the tools necessary to successful integration into society as adults.

The report indicates that dropping out should be seen as a process, whose roots lie in the experience of all youth in the regular education system, and that runs along a continuum from disengagement to actually leaving school. The ongoing work of the educational system is crucial to the formulation of solutions to this problem, as are support services both in and outside schools. This report highlights the need to address the roots of the problem, and to enhance the opportunities available to youth who have already dropped out of the regular system.

The Knesset created a special joint committee from other committees to discuss this phenomenon and make recommendations how to address and combat it.