International report examines how some students are “discarded” by school systems

LatinaLista — There’s long been debate in the United States over whether or not retaining a child in a particular grade was a good or bad thing. Yet, no one ever addresses if transferring students, labeled “troublemakers,” to alternative schools is good or bad.

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The idea that getting troublemakers out of the classroom so “real learning” can be had by the other students has always been the justification of transfers, and even for retaining some kids, but a new international study of retaining and/or transferring students illustrates the other side of the story.

The report, When students repeat grades or are transferred out of school: What does it mean for education systems?, published by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that if retentions and transfers are practiced frequently by a country’s educational system, the country, and the students, are worse off because of it in the long run.

According to the report:

School systems that seek to cater to different students’ needs by having struggling students repeat grades or by transferring them to other schools do not succeed in producing superior overall results and, in some cases, reinforce socio-economic inequities.

Teachers in these systems may have fewer incentives to work with struggling students if they know there is an option of transferring those students to other schools. These school systems need to consider how to create appropriate incentives to ensure that some students are not “discarded” by the system.

The two countries recognized where retention doesn’t exist is Korea and Finland. On the surface that sounds like a positive, but knowing that the same expectation is made of all students, regardless of ability, may increase pressure on some who don’t fit the traditional mold. The analysis reports that retention and transfers are pretty much commonplace elsewhere around the world.

More than one in four students repeat grades in Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. Outside Europe, repeating grades is as common in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Panama, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and Uruguay.

The report also reveals that in those countries reporting lower student transfer rates, it’s because the school systems are given more freedom in choosing curriculum, textbooks, policies, etc.

In countries where students get transferred out of their home schools into another environment, the report’s authors see a correlation between students’ families income levels and the schools they attend — kids from advantaged backgrounds end up in better-performing schools while those from disadvantaged backgrounds are on poorer-performing campuses.

It’s not just the students who suffer either. The report’s authors point out that countries lose out when students are retained or transferred. It means those students will be late entering the labor market, and may not achieve their full potential given the interruptions in their education. Also, countries have to pay more for students who are retained or transferred.

In the end, the report shows that it’s those countries who treat all their students equally, have the same expectations of every student and give their students the same access to the tools they need to function in the workplace of the future are the countries with the brightest future.

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