Can we sincerely speak of school perseverance?

These are the days of school perseverance in Quebec. These days follow teachers’ week. Is this a coincidence or a nod to the teaching profession? It doesn’t matter.

It was while reading Le Devoir this morning that I learned that three dropouts will go on a crusade with school-aged children to encourage them to persevere on the school benches. It’s a beautiful story, full of otherness. What educator wouldn’t be moved by this act of bravery from I made a big mistake and don’t want others to repeat it . Sadly, too many young people have winding paths and face adult issues when they are still just teenagers. Sad observation of today’s society where children have adult responsibilities in families, too often dysfunctional.

So once a year, we go on a crusade to promote academic perseverance. We cannot be against virtue. However, beyond these beautiful words and these few actions here and there, do we take the time to sincerely question ourselves? Are we contributing to dropping out of school? How? ‘Or’ What ? Do we take the time to give ourselves this little respite to do our own professional practice analysis?

Learning would be favored by the pleasure that one experiences in carrying out a task. We must stop thinking about learning as a simple cognitive process. As we know, the emotional sphere is omnipresent among young people of high school age. To ignore it in our daily educational intervention is a serious mistake. Motivation and commitment are essential elements in shaping learning. A plethora of research exists on this subject, and teacher training clearly demonstrates this importance when it comes to meaning  : the why of learning. It’s a bit as if the teacher became a salesperson by selling the importance of carrying out a given task and integrating its pedagogical foundations.

Everyone is familiar with the concepts of extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation. In other words, that which comes from the environment, therefore from external stimuli and that which comes from the individual, from his interior, with all his scheme of perceptions and conceptions. If it is relatively easy for the milieu to modify the conditions external to the pupil in order to hope to ignite his interest in learning, it is quite different as regards his perception of the learning to be achieved. Nevertheless, there is a panoply of active teaching strategies whose effects will have the pretension to make the student active in his learning. An active student is often one who commits and integrates a given task. He saw her, he made her his. He is keen on it, he is motivated.

Solid learning is rooted in action. The student releases a level of investment where he builds his self-esteem to perform a task instead of demonstrating the competence of a teacher to achieve it. When an education system is based more on conventions and traditions rather than on the pleasure of learning and the need to innovate, it goes without saying that the pupils themselves come to class out of obligation, and not out of interest.

In short, a student must be an actor and not a spectator of his own journey. In this regard, Montaigne rightly cited:

(…) A child of the house, who seeks letters, not for gain (…) nor so much for external conveniences, as for his own and to enrich himself and adorn inside, rather wanting to to succeed, a clever man, a learned man, I would also like people to be careful to choose a conductor for him, who would rather have a well-made head, rather than a full one: and that both of them were required, but no longer manners and understanding that science: and that he behaves in his charge in a new way. We keep shouting in our ears, as if pouring into a funnel; and our charge is only to repeat what we have been told.

To come back to the days of school perseverance, the initiative is laudable although… hypocritical. We encourage our students to persist in an education system that is rigid and refuses to modernize. They persevere in an environment which does not resemble them and which does not do what is necessary to resemble them in depth. Do you know of other companies that refuse to mold themselves to the needs of their customers and survive that long? What is the point of highlighting a week in the school year when the rest of the time, the world of education stubbornly refuses to keep pace with student reality? What are we doing concretely and in a sustainable way to promote school perseverance? When will we stop seeing school dropout as an external phenomenon rather than the result of our failures as a school system?

In short, in this century, more than ever, the school is no longer the consecrated place which holds the monopoly of the conditions linked to learning. This Quebec school is in competition with its entourage, who frequently know how to stimulate the creativity and curiosity of our students. Thanks to ICT, they can access a whole range of knowledge in the palm of their pocket, via their smart phone. School and learning are therefore no longer intimately inseparable.

It is not too late to embrace modernity and take the necessary turn instead of lamenting the harmful effects of dropping out of school in our society. Thus, we would celebrate our successes in perseverance instead of waving the socio-economic scarecrow at our young people to convince them to stay on the school benches. Fear and coercion have never worked well in education. The statistics on dropping out are there to remind us cruelly.

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