Dropout rates don't reflect quality of provision, report says

April 6, 2001

An obsession with retention and achievement rates may lead further education colleges to refuse to recruit students who are likely to drop out, according to a new report, writes Alison Utley.

Academics at Leeds and Exeter universities tracked 50 youngsters studying in colleges over a three-year period to understand the reasons why some dropped out. The conclusions criticise the policy and funding assumptions surrounding students who quit.

"Retention and qualification achievement are inaccurate measures of the quality of provision because too many other factors are overlooked," the report says.

The reliance on retention and achievement rates means that blame for failure is laid on either the students or the education and guidance providers, rendering deeper inequalities in class, gender and ethnicity invisible, say the authors.

Dropping Out of Further Education will be published in Research Papers in Education in June.

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