The multiple diagnoses on the deficits of Spanish education tend to coincide in pointing out an objective and difficult problem: early school leaving is among the most serious. The OECD has just issued a report, at the request of the Ministry of Education, which acknowledges the correct direction of the reform underway, but incorporates five major actions that can improve it. Among them, the precise identification of the educational centers that welcome families with higher rates of poverty stands out. They tend to be the ones that register very high percentages of students with educational support needs, and it is where the greatest personal and human resources should be concentrated to compensate for the social and educational deficiencies of families. The translation of the proposal is to contribute more money to the centers that welcome those who have less at home.
The definition of school dropout is not easy. It is the percentage of young people between the ages of 18 and 24 who, at most, have completed Compulsory Secondary Education and do not follow any type of study or training afterwards. The consequences of this are dramatically concrete: those who leave school too early suffer immediate effects of “job insecurity, demotivation to participate in the labor market, personal health and self-esteem”, and “tend to be socially and economically disadvantaged in the long term”. These are the forceful conclusions of a report that warns about the serious individual consequences of a high rate of early school leaving and the high economic cost that it implies by multiplying the levels of youth unemployment and poverty. Spain has historically been one of the European countries with the highest rate in this area: in 2010 it was 28.2% and, although it has fallen considerably since then, to 13.9%, it is still around five points per above the EU average, which is 9.3%.
Among the objections raised by the OECD to the objective of reducing early school leaving, the lack of common definitions among the autonomous communities stands out to qualify an educational center as vulnerable, what truancy consists of or what is the student body with a specific need for educational support. Other indicators that favor school dropout are the high level of precariousness of teachers, school schedules that have tended to become intensive, and tomorrow when research shows that spending more time in school increases graduation and learning rates for the economically weakest. and a problem of school segregation, with an educational network subsidized with public money (the concerted private one) that enrolls far fewer children in a situation of social disadvantage than it would correspond to.
Directing resources to the social segments that need them most is the sensible central proposal of the OECD so that the school fulfills the functions of compensation and correction of the inequality of origin in which tens of thousands of children in Spain find themselves.