Understanding the Problem and Attacking It Head-On

The first and foremost challenge any basic education system must confront is school leaving. Dropouts are almost impossible to be reached by education reforms once they have left school. A school district in the United States has figured out how to track this problem and address it before things get worse. Over a course of just seven years, the city of Chicago has seen a double digit increase in its high school graduation rate, 49 percent in 2007 to 68 percent in 2014. The secret lies in understanding the problem and attacking it head-on, not really a new concept. And what works is not a dramatic education reform but old proven interventions informed by evidence-based research.

The University of Chicago's Consortium on Chicago School Research simply narrowed down the dropout rate problem in Chicago schools to one significant period in basic education, the ninth grade. High schools then focused on tracking students' grades, attendance, and engagement in school during this momentous year. When a student seemed not on track, tutoring sessions and mentors were then offered. It was simply an education system that gave second chances with care, honesty and effectiveness. And the results are outstanding. The following figures from the University of Chicago's Consortium on Chicago School Research show remarkable progress that continues through the end of high school.

Above copied from CCSR's Preventable Failure

Clearly, intervention at the right time works but what is more remarkable is that the gains continue beyond ninth grade.

Above copied from CCSR's Preventable Failure

What is happening in Chicago's high schools is a testament to how effective solutions are when problems are correctly understood and addressed head-on. The Philippines also faces an enormous challenge in terms of school dropouts. Data compiled by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies likewise point out momentous points along the basic education program. Here is one. The adjusted net attendance rates are vastly different between primary and secondary education.

Above copied from Profile of Out-of-School Children in the Philippines
Secondly, school leavers are visibly higher in the early years of both elementary and high school.

Above copied from Profile of Out-of-School Children in the Philippines

Paying closer attention to the details of a problem allows for finding more effective and in this case, timely interventions. DepEd's K to 12 addresses in part the problem in first grade by providing kindergarten. The two years added at the end of high school, however, are obviously not in any way addressing the problem of school leaving in the Philippines.