School Dropout: Causes, Consequences and Characteristics

The school dropout it is the phenomenon in which the student stops attending the classrooms and stays out of the educational system without receiving a school diploma. This phenomenon is usually seen in Latin America, given that it is a region with high dropout rates.

According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), school dropouts have some main causes: malnourished children or children who need to go to work thanks to the poor environment, social exclusion or schools with reduced capacity.

School dropout

School desertion manifests itself especially in underdeveloped and developing countries, in which the phenomenon is observed between the last years of primary and secondary school. In industrialized nations the abandonment occurs in tertiary education or university studies.

It is estimated that close to 50 million young people in Latin America have not been able to complete their studies.


  • 1 Types
    • 1.1 According to the duration (temporary or definitive)
    • 1.2 According to the scope
    • 1.3 According to the moment in which it occurs
  • 2 Causes
    • 2.1 Intra school
    • 2.2 Extra school children
    • 2.3 Other causes
  • 3 Consequences
  • 4 Signs of school dropout
  • 5 Dropout in Mexico
  • 6 Prevention programs in Latin America to prevent school dropouts
    • 6.1 Conditional cash transfers
    • 6.2 Acceleration of learnings
    • 6.3 I do not abandon
    • 6.4 I'm in
    • 6.5 Inclusive schools
    • 6.6 Other initiatives
  • 7 References


The dropout can be classified as follows:

According to the duration (temporary or definitive)

There are students who return to the classroom after a period, while others leave the system permanently.

According to the scope

In some cases the desertion is not given as a whole due to the transfer of a student to another educational institution. However, this phenomenon must be studied by these institutions.

According to the moment in which it occurs

This depends on the trajectory that the student has made and the educational level that has reached: preschool, primary, secondary, middle or university.


The desertion finds different causes that explain the phenomenon. The two main causes are intra-school and extra-curricular.

Intra school

They have to do with the causes or internal factors of the student. Among them, the following stand out:

- Behavior problems .

- Learning problems.

- Emotional disorders .

- Lack of motivation and / or interest.

- Active social life after school activities.

- Little identification with the school.

- Low performance.

- Repetition. This particular factor has been increasing with the passage of time. The increase in the figure intensifies, especially in the high school years. It may have to do with the lack of adaptation of the passage from primary to secondary school.

Extra school children

In this category external causes converge, ranging from the socioeconomic to the familiar.

- Labor insertion. Due to the economic problems of the family nucleus, the student sees the need to work and, therefore, drop out of school.

- Pregnancy.

- Parents have low expectations regarding academic training.

- Parents who have not received an education

- Lack of fixed residence.

- Insufficient income in the home.

- Schools located at great distances. In view of this, children must travel several kilometers until they reach their destination. This affects regular attendance at classes.

- The desertion of other relatives.

- Little conversation about the school.

Other causes

- Teachers. In a first aspect, the poor working conditions in which teachers find themselves have an impact on desertion. It also affects the poor training and preparation of them.

- Low allocation to the school budget, which affects the sufficiency of school materials as well as the conditions of schools and public institutions.

- Ganging

- Bullying or bullying

- Gender stereotypes.

- Problems in terms of age, cultural or socioeconomic and ethnic level.


- The school dropout will have a great impact on human capital, as it negatively affects social, economic and political processes in terms of the projection of development of a country.

- Generate high social and private costs because they result in the recruitment of a less qualified workforce.

- For the State, it is also expensive because it is obliged to carry out and finance social programs.

- Those who are outside the education system are part of unemployed and socially excluded groups. In addition to this, these people can be part of criminal and violent groups.

- Increase in social inequalities, which generate a lack of integration among individuals.

- Lack of education prevents men and women from being able to escape from poverty because they do not have the mental or physical capacities to aspire to a stable and well-paid job.

- Decrease in the development of economies.

Signs of school dropout

Although the causes and consequences are clear, it is believed that it is possible to handle school desertion at the moment in which it is possible to detect the signs that indicate that this phenomenon could be triggered.

This is mainly due to the fact that school dropout is considered as a cumulative process of three key signs:

- Absenteeism.

- Deviant behavior.

- Performance.

With attention to these elements it will be easier for teachers, parents and representatives to make an intervention on time.

Dropout in Mexico

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) indicated in 2002 that Mexico was among the countries with the highest rate of dropout rates, although in recent years the figure has drastically decreased.

Some of the characteristics that are manifested are the following:

- The level with the highest school dropout is the upper middle school. In fact, the figures are distributed as follows: primary presents 0.5%, secondary has 4.2%, upper middle has 12.1% and higher education has 6.8%.

- The main factors of school dropout in the country are early pregnancy, failure and the allocation of an unwanted shift for studies. Another cause that follows closely has to do with the lack of motivation and with the assumption that studies are not very useful.

- Another relevant factor is the increase in the enrollment of non-compulsory education, which affects the inability to pay for enrollment and the acquisition of school materials.

- The lack of teacher preparation in indigenous languages ​​also means the lack of literacy for those communities.

- Rural areas are the ones with the highest dropout rate.

- It is believed that Mexico is one of the countries that invests the least amount of the national budget in education.

- The states with greater school attendance are Sonora and the Federal District. The states with the highest desertion are Michoacán and Chiapas.

- In view of the fact that the desertion occurs mostly in the upper secondary level, it is considered necessary to establish more attractive and varied educational offers.

- There is no culture of equal opportunities between men and women. Therefore, it is the latter that represent the highest dropout rate.

Prevention programs in Latin America to prevent school dropouts

In Latin America and Mexico there is a variety of institutions that seek to slow the progression of school dropout in the region, in order to ensure educational plurality and work to train individuals who, in the future, are an important economic force for their countries.

Some of the main programs that have been initiated are the following:

Conditional cash transfers

These are programs that began in Brazil and Mexico in the 1990s and have had a great influence on the rest of the region.

With this initiative it is sought that the children of less affluent families can enroll and attend classes regularly. The ultimate goal is to keep them within the education system.

Acceleration of learnings

This program was first developed in Brazil, although it was expanded by Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and El Salvador.

Acceleration of learning is designed for children and adolescents who have passed the age corresponding to the course in which they have to be content. The idea is to have access to these materials through an accelerated process. In this way they will reach the level at which, by age, they should attend.

I do not abandon

It is an initiative that was born in Mexico and in which both federal and state institutions participate. It also includes educational institutions, parents, teachers, students and any member of society that wishes to participate.

The objective of the program is to reduce the desertion at the high school level. To achieve this they use workshops, manuals, presentations and plans to help the participants.

I'm in

It is a proposal born in Costa Rica that seeks to address the signs of school dropout risk (absenteeism, deviant behavior and performance), through activities ranging from macro to micro actions, according to the needs and requirements of students.

Inclusive schools

One of the factors of dropping out has to do with the lack of opportunities between genders. Inclusive schools seeks to ensure that both students and students can be part of an educational program that guarantees a quality education.

Other initiatives

There are also flexible education programs, which include models and unconventional school processes that seek to increase access opportunities at all educational levels.

Two initiatives stand out: the Schools of Forgiveness and Reconciliation, and the Icaro Project (Project Incentives Conditional on Access and Timely Retention).


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