For every seven children who attend compulsory school, there is one who carries the symptoms of school disaffection. This is confirmed by the first data from the Survey on Scholastic Wellbeing conducted by Mani Tese and Giunti Psycometrics in five Italian regions.
The survey was carried out in the context of “Children who are worth!”, A project selected by Con i Bambini as part of the Fund for combating child educational poverty, promoted by Mani Tese together with other partners.
The survey involved 1,277 children between 9 and 13 years, who answered individually (without mediation by parents and teachers) to 31 questions studied by Giunti Psychometrics experts together with Stefano Taddei and Bastianina Contena, teachers at the University of Florence to evaluate the perception of students with respect to the factors of school discomfort: parenting style, the attitude and trust of adults in studying, the emotions that emerge from relationships within the school, school engagement, discrimination, physical well-being, attempts at avoidance, the extra-curricular context and the appropriation of spaces.
Early school leaving in Italy
The latest Eurostat data (2019) show how, despite the progress, Italy continues to rank in the last places in Europe when considering the school dropout rate with a worrying increase that occurred in 2018, in contrast to the data of recent years (since 14% to 14.5%).
Added to this are the worrying data relating to implicit school dropout, that is to the non-negligible percentage of people (about 7%) who, despite going to school and obtaining their qualifications, do not acquire the required skills (Ricci, 2019) as evidenced by the results of the recent Invalsi tests (2019).
The results of the survey
The result that emerges most clearly is a sort of fixed constant of discomfort, which concerns a group of minors in a percentage that is always around 15%.
“It is the rule of the seventh dwarf – declares Giacomo Petitti, Education and Training Manager of Mani Tese – about one in seven children manifest a malaise since the last years of elementary school which, if not intercepted in time, can easily turn into dispersion and contribute the reasons for abandonment, on which Italy continues to show worrying values compared to the European average ”.
13% of survey respondents perceive parents as unsupportive because they always scold (4.9%), let the children do whatever they want (5.3%) or simply mind their own business (2.9 %). A similar percentage is found in the emotions experienced at school. Compared to a majority experiencing positive or neutral emotional states, 15% of students report negative feelings such as anger, fear, sadness and despair in their relationship with teachers. School in general arouses negative emotions in 20% of participants, with a significant increase in the transition between primary and lower secondary school. Malaise is also evident through avoidance strategies (15% happen to ask parents to be kept home from school) and peer relationships (9% have no or very few friends in the school context). If we look at the out-of-school context, things do not improve. Needless to say, the percentage of minors who, outside of school, declare that they do not feel pleasant stimuli is 15%.
These data seem to correlate with the motivation for the study, from which it emerges that about half of the interviewees say they have little or no interest in the study and, even more alarming given the age group between 9 and 13, declares that she is not particularly interested in learning new things.
A positive fact concerns the trust in adults. 95% of respondents state that they trust teachers and parents very or very much, an almost absolute number that indicates a clear way to reduce the discomfort.
“How much is this trust reciprocated? – continues Giacomo Petitti – How is it possible to enhance its positive potential and transform it, with the transition to adolescence, into self-confidence? Teachers, parents and figures who play an educational role must be co-responsible for an educational pact to restore as much as possible to the children that trust that has been given to them, and make it become a resource. The challenge, not only of the school but of the entire educating community, is to keep them all firmly in school. Even those ‘seventh dwarfs’ who deserve to be able to fully exploit the opportunity to learn, using the best of their abilities “.
The “Children who are worth” project!
“Children who are worth!” intends to promote effective actions to combat the discomfort of children in school and to prevent the causes of dispersion and dropout by acting, in particular, in the transition phase between the primary and secondary school cycle (age group 9-14 years) through the involvement of all the subjects of the educating community, primarily schools.
There are four areas of intervention: the vulnerability of minors, the fluidity in the transition between the primary and secondary cycle, the unpreparedness of the educating community and the anonymity of educational spaces.
The experiments envisaged by the project will contribute to the development of a methodology that can be replicated on a national level to combat the increase in educational poverty in Italy.
The three-year project is promoted by Mani Tese in collaboration with CIAI, Il Timone, Coop. Sociale Cellarius, Faber City, Villa Montesca Study Center, Giunti Psychometrics, Guardavanti, Lama Development And Cooperation Agency, Bicocca University, Ca ‘Foscari University, schools and municipalities in 5 Italian regions.
“Children who are worth!” project was selected by Con i Bambini as part of the Fund for combating juvenile educational poverty. The Fund was born from an agreement between the foundations of banking origin represented by Acri, the National Forum of the Third Sector and the Government. It supports interventions aimed at removing obstacles of an economic, social and cultural nature that prevent minors from fully enjoying the educational processes. To implement the Fund’s programs, the social enterprise Con i Bambini was born in June 2016, a non-profit organization wholly owned by the CON IL SUD Foundation.