School dropout rates in Spain are falling to historic lows

by Lorraine Williamson
school dropout rates
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MADRID – One of the main problems of the Spanish education system is the school dropout rate of early school leavers. As soon as compulsory education ends on their sixteenth birthday, too many pupils do not return to school. 

According to data from Eurostat, the school dropout rate in Spain in 2021 was 13.3%. That is the lowest percentage since data was collected on this subject. When the measurement started in 1992, more than 40% of Spanish young people did not complete the second stage of secondary education. Until 2009, this figure remained above 30%. Since then, however, this indicator has fallen year after year to the current 13.3%. 

If the evolution of the number of dropouts in Spain is compared to that of some other European countries, it appears that Spain’s path is somewhat similar to that of Portugal and Italy. By way of comparison: school dropout rates in the Netherlands and Belgium are much lower at 5.3% and 6.7% respectively. 

However, despite the major improvement in the latest figures and the decreasing trend in early school leaving, the figures in Spain are still among the worst in the European Union. At the end of 2021, Spain was given the second worst figure, behind Romania. 

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School dropout by region 

Finally, if we look at the Spanish regions, the communities in the south of the country stand out. School drop-out rates are highest in Andalucia and Murcia at 17.7% and 17.3%. The north of the peninsula closes the classification with the lowest dropout rate in the Basque Country (4.8%) and Cantabria (6.4%) shows the lowest percentage of dropouts. 

Why are school dropout rates in Spain so high? 

Several factors contribute to school dropout in Spain. Socioeconomic factors are important in this respect. Students from low-income families are more likely to drop out of school due to financial constraints and the need to work to support their families. Many students who drop out of school come from immigrant families and struggle with the language of instruction. That can make it hard to keep up and also stay motivated. Finally, the Spanish education system is often criticised for being inflexible and old-fashioned. Students have to learn a lot by heart and are given a lot of homework from an early age. This can lead to them not seeing the relevance of what they are learning and dropping out early due to a lack of motivation. 

Related post: No time to think in Spanish schools 

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