Delving into school drop-outs

Every year, 100 000 teenagers leave school without a diploma. Despite the improvement in the past 10 years, much has yet to be done; especially when looking at a school’s role in providing equal opportunities to all. For this reason, the Break Poverty Foundation has launched an ambitious program aiming to prevent school-drop outs. However, what is the scale of this phenomena? What solutions can we support to restore equal opportunities for all children?

School drop-outs and social inequalities in numbers

  • 13% of students drop-out every year from school
  • In other words, 100 000 young adults per year
  • 450 000 young adults from 18 to 24 years old have not graduated and have not followed any type of training in the past four weeks
  • 230 000 euros: amount of money a high-school dropout costs to the community
  • 38,4% of the children who have a mother who never graduated will also drop-out, versus 5,9% of children who have a mother with a diploma from graduate school
  • 28% of the children coming from a working-class family drop-out from high school versus 7% of children who come from a wealthy family

Source: CNESCO

“our priority is prevention”

Three questions for Christophe Sanchez, director of programs at Break Poverty Foundation.

Why prioritize school drop-ouys as one of your three pillars to combat poverty?

There are many reasons why we made this decision. First of all, because we know that school is still the best way to overcome poverty. According to France Stratégie, the revenue of a person is determined by the level of their diploma by 50%. Did you know that a young adult who has dropped out of school has a chance out of two to be unemployed three years after leaving school? In other words, there are still 100 000 students who – every year – leave school with no diploma. Although there have been some improvements, the situation remains too precarious and thus must be a priority.

Beyond our desire to combat this social determinism, we also have a very pragmatic approach: a person who drops out of school costs 230 000 euros to the community.

Is abandoning school a new phenomenon?

No, there has always been school drop-outs. However, this topic becomes more delicate in periods of acute crisis. During the Glorious Thirty, in the time of high productivity, we could find work without a diploma. Today, to not have the required qualifications is a synonym for unemployment or unstable employment. Thus, 80% of the people having a diploma inferior to a high school diploma are recruited with fixed-term employment contracts.

How do you take action to overcome the phenomenon of schools drop-outs?

Our priority is prevention. Why? Because the risks of dropping out of school emerge in the first grade. A drop-out student generally follows the same cycle: in primary, he encounters many difficulties, in middle school his difficulties become more acute and behavioral problems emerge. In high school, it is his lack of motivation and amount of absences that lead to his drop-out. This finding allows us to discern the children who are at risk of abandoning school and to act more effectively and quickly. Our mission is thus to curb the first difficulties a child is faced with in order to keep him on the right track. Academic support, development of adapted teaching tools, partnerships with schools/parents/associations… from the youngest age, we must prevent academic difficulties to give every child the taste of learning!

Apart from this preventive work, we think it is essential to understand the child’s aspirations to ensure that he can benefit from the most pertinent orientation, tailored to his desires and needs. How? By financing associations that lead innovative and efficient projects, which can be replicated on other territories to prevent school drop-outs. One of our convictions is that enterprises have an essential role to play in their capacity to offer a future to young adults in difficulty. We have also launched a “Local Endowment Fund Against Poverty” strategy. The aim? Create a bridge between enterprises and transformative projects. In this context, we support the promising project of the Escalades enterprises association in Nantes (read zoom further down) which helps young adults to discover their aspirations by opening the doors to the world of enterprises.


FOCUS on one our pioneer projectsEscalades enterprises, to combat school drop-outs from every angle!

Made up of nearly 150 enterprise managers from the Nantes region, the association Escalade enterprises experiments with an original tool to combat school drop-outs. Their actions are based on two pillars: prevent school drop-outs by accompanying teenagers with an aim to bring them back into school and to bring them closer to enterprises and the, notably by showing them different career paths.

Results: Thanks to the project JEM (Jeunes Envie Motivation) (Youth Want Motivation) – a 3-month course combining self-work, discovery of a potential career path, and the creation of a personal project – 50% of the 130 teenagers aged 14 to 15 who followed this course went back to school afterwards.

More broadly, Escalade enterprises takes the time to meet young people through presentation sessions on careers by going to schools and by welcoming students into their own establishments.

Result: thousands of young people have changed their views on the world of enterprises! To be continued…



Credits : Andrew Ebrahim, Unsplash.