New research tests impact of mentoring on school dropouts
Candil, D. M., & Gaza, M. (2017). A pilot Study of the impact of the Peraj mentoring program on school dropout risk of Mexican children. Journal of Community Psychology, 45(3), 315-332.DOI: 10.1002/jcop.21849
Summarized by Jelle de Graaf
School dropout is a serious issue in Mexico; it affects hundreds of thousands of children and youth. In spite of the seriousness of this problem, there is still very little research done to fully understand how this phenomenon works. Dropping out of school is a reality from the early stages in Mexico. In the year 1999 only 36 of the 100 students made it to high school graduation and while there has been some modest improvement, during the year 2011-2012 only 51.9% of all 15- to 17-year-old students are enrolled in high school.
Since the year 2012, enrollment in all the educational levels prior to high school have become mandatory in Mexico. This means that by law children are expected to attend schooling for 15 years. The high numbers of students that are not completing the first levels of education are at higher risk of being held back in grades and dropping out of school.
One of the few nationwide studies on school dropout shows that many reasons for dropping out of school are because students don’t like school. This dislike can stem from a range of factors, such as difficult relationships with teachers, curriculum, classmates and so on. The present study attempted to evaluate the effects on the reduction of dropout risk that the Peraj Mentoring Program has on the children that participate in it.
For the evaluation of the dropout risks, the Peraj School Dropout Risk Questionnaire (PSDRQ) was created. In this evaluation a total of 2,996 participants were included, of which 1,937 were mentees of the Peraj mentoring program from 45 different universities. The remaining 1,059 belonged to the control group and did not participate in the mentoring program. Participants from both groups shared contextual and environmental characteristics.
To guarantee that the mentee and control group were comparable, the analysis has been limited to data from both groups at both times from the universities. In doing so the study compared 816 children participating in the Peraj mentoring programs through 10 universities of which 324 were mentees and the remaining 492 belonged to the control group. Most data (70%) came from universities that have been participating in Peraj since 2007 or prior. In other words, most data came from the piloted Peraj programs in Mexico.
The first nationwide survey that collected data on high school dropout in Mexico has been the National Survey of High School Dropout (ENDEMS). The factors included in this survey are academic, motivational, social, economic and family domains. From the results of the ENDEMS, goals of the Peraj’s mentoring activities and literature reviews regarding dropout risks, it could be determined that Peraj has a direct effect on the following eight identified risk factors: Academic self-concept, locus of control, academic expectations, autonomy, aggressive behavior, academic effort, school engagement and appreciation school.
The questionnaire used during this study was an 80-item questionnaire built with the eight stated risk factors in mind and has been developed to evaluate the effects of Peraj on school dropout risk. The items were designed using a 5-point Likert scale format. The eight dimensions and the overall dimension – dropout risk – were scored averaging the individual items that compose them. All dimensions and the full questionnaire had a range between 1 and 5. For each dimension counted that the smaller values represent low risk or a negative results and the higher values higher risk or a positive results. The 80-item questionnaire form has been divided over four 40-item questionnaires. These surveys were distributed to 40 universities which used the same two forms for the pretest and posttest.
The authors found in the results of the distribution of the pretest that there is a difference between the results of the mentees and the control group which means that the control group shows from the beginning higher levels of dropout risk. The posttest shows that there is a significant difference between the mentee and control group in which the mentee group have less risk to dropping out of school than the control group.
Other significant findings are the differences between the pretest and the posttest of the mentees and control group. For the mentees there was a lower risk of dropping out of school between the pretest and the posttest, but for the control group the risk of dropping out of school rose in a 10-month period. This means an alarming tendency of dropout risk.
The results are showing that an additional year in school increase the risk of dropping out rather than improving chances of completion. It seems that being in school without any additional support (i.e., mentoring) brings children close to abandoning their institution.
The present study adds to the literature that supports the usage of mentoring to address dropout rates. The study has identified certain domains (i.e. academic self-concept, autonomy, locus of control, academic expectations, aggressive behavior, school engagement and appreciation of school) through which the idea of abandoning school begins to set in a student’s minds.
Future studies could develop intervention strategies to combine the findings of this study with the results of previous conducted studies like the National Survey of High School Dropout. Although the results are promising, further research is needed to find out if the implications and decisions drawn from them are in fact adequate. Future studies should develop strategies to randomly assign subjects to experimental and control groups to properly generalize the result.
If these strategies are comparable with the results of this study, it would provide further evidence that the Peraj mentoring program reduces dropout risk.
Some issues need to be addressed regarding the PDSRQ. First of all, the best way to ensure the validity of a questionnaire is through its predictive capability. If the PDSRQ is a valid tool to evaluate dropout risk, this study should be able to predict which students are more likely to drop out of school. Secondly, regarding future studies, other variables like absenteeism, tardiness or specific test scores could be added to future studies to see how the PDSRQ scores behave in relation to other dropout risk factors.
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