A strategy to assist rural multigrade schools to reduce the dropout rate experienced in high schools
van Niekerk, Susanna Elizabeth
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Educationists and political leaders are concerned about the high dropout rates experienced in South African high schools. For the purposes of this research, “dropout” is defined as “one who has not graduated from high school”. Research indicates that the high school dropout rates, both in South Africa and globally, culminate in challenges for the school, the community and society. The multigrade primary school environment sees learners doing well academically, but when these learners move on to high school, the dropout rates increase for these learners. The purpose of this study is two-fold: to determine the reasons for dropout of learners who have ably and successfully completed their primary education within the multigrade system; and to propose a strategy to assist rural multigrade primary schools in reducing the foreseen dropout rates in high schools. A sequential explanatory mixed-method approach was designed in order to determine what strategy could assist rural multigrade schools in Circuit 2 of the West Coast Education District to prevent the dropout rate experienced in high schools. During the preliminary research a scrupulous literature study was done, to determine global trends and to determine which current intervention programmes exist. The quantitative phase of this study was conducted first and consisted of a content analysis of school documents to determine which learners did not complete high school. The qualitative phase followed and the data was collected through face-to-face interviews with principals of rural multigrade primary schools, and learners who had dropped out. This was done in order to determine the perceptions of the principals, and the former learners who had dropped out of the schooling system. This research elucidates the challenges – the inexorable odds – that these multigrade learners have had to overcome in order to complete Grade 12. In closing, it proposes pragmatic strategies which may decrease the high dropout rates that learners, from a multigrade primary setting, experience in future.