“Very often young people have not chosen to leave school, they are forced to do so,” explains Rachid Zerrouki

The dropouts, “those who leave school way too early”, Rachid Zerrouki, aka “Rachid the teacher” on Twitter, are called Dropouts*. In his book, which will be published this Thursday, he sets up a gallery of portraits of young people who have broken with the school system. A way to show that school dropout is multifactorial.

Rachid Zerrouki, a secondary school teacher in Segpa (Adapted General and Vocational Education Department, intended for students in difficulty), also describes the stigmatization these 80,000 young dropouts undergo. In front of 20 minuteshe explains how society’s view of them could change and proposes measures to better support them.

You prefer the term “dropouts” over the word “dropouts”. Is it to emphasize that these young people suffer from their school failure?

Yes, because talking to young people who were out of school, I noticed that they were suffering from a situation that they would not have wanted. The idea is not to absolve them of all responsibility in this break with National Education, but to show the facts of life that led them to leave the institution. It can be bullying at school, school phobia, a family drama… Very often they didn’t choose to leave school, they were forced to.

Your book clearly shows that it is the accumulation of academic, social and personal difficulties that leads to dropout… Which is not always mentioned when we talk about “dropout”. Have they been caricatured too often?

Absolute. We are often painted the portrait of a young person who no longer wants to make the effort. It is a cliché that does not take into account the complexity of the phenomenon.

You describe the process that leads to dropout: blank papers, written words, alarming reports, absences, behavior problems, disciplinary advice… How do you explain that with all these warnings the school system is failing to get young people to it before it’s too late? ?

If a pupil does not show up at his establishment for several days in a row and does not justify his absence, the school dropout detection cell of his rectorate is notified. But in most cases the pupil has pearly white absences, making his progressive alienation less noticeable. We should also hire more school psychologists so that dropout prevention is more effective.

Do overcrowded high school classes make it impossible to individualize education and take into account these students in dire straits?

The sheer numbers in secondary education are indeed an obstacle in the fight against early school leaving. I defend the idea of ​​empathy in education. In classes of 30 to 35 students, however, it is made almost impossible. This does not allow teachers to provide quality support to the students who are having the most difficulty.

“Restoring trust is at the heart of my work,” you write. But how do you arrange this together with your Segpa students to prevent them from stopping studying?

They have had many failures and I struggle with the helplessness that comes with them. But for that we should not ask the impossible of these students. You should start by giving them simple exercises to put them in a successful situation. And then move on with them, find projects that get them excited. This is the best way to boost their confidence.

Some of your testimonials show that dropout parents often feel guilty. They are accused of being too lax. How do they experience this double pain?

To think that parents are completely responsible for what their child experiences is too simplistic. Like the mother of Yassine, a child with predominant hyperactive-impulsive attention deficit disorder (ADHD). She comes under fire from a teacher as she struggles to find solutions for her son. Most parents of students who have no contact with the school experience this situation in their flesh. National Education should support them much more.

The portraits you paint show what has become of some dropouts. Are they condemned to precarious and poorly paid jobs?

No, but statistically, they leave the world of work with a disability. Xavier Niel is a self-taught entrepreneur with a thriving career, but that is rare. Hence the importance of being able to educate and qualify those who have left school even several years later.

“The image we have of being a teenager is persistent,” you write. Do those who drop out of school necessarily have a bad image of themselves?

The judgments we made about ourselves during adolescence necessarily have an impact on adulthood. The hurtful words of teachers, who have not always weighed their words, leave traces years later.

Several plans to combat early school leaving have been implemented by previous education ministers. Did they bear fruit?

Efforts have been made as we went from 107,000 dropouts in 2015 to 80,000 today. Particularly because we have facilitated access to the DNB (National Patent Diploma), which since 2017 has been based on the evaluation of the common basis and on five tests.

Should remedial measures be developed, such as second chance schools?

Yes, as well as the micro-lectures or high schools that help to re-establish the bond between the student and the school. But France does not have the resources to do so. We could also assign teachers dedicated to remediation in colleges and high schools. Because the ambition not to leave a student behind is not unrealistic, but it is within our reach.

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