That sense of belonging

Education at a Glance 2004
OECD Observer

Ownership, participation, stakeholder involvement: these form the jargon of today’s open policymaking with civil society. But what about school kids?

Pupils and students are stakeholders in their own education, as well as in their own futures. Curiously, there has been less attention paid to how students feel about being in school, and about the extent to which they belong to the educational process they enter every day.

Yet, such a question could be crucial. According to the latest edition of Education at a Glance, a sense of belonging, or “fitting in”, may encourage or discourage students’ participation in school, as well as how they do academically, and eventually in choosing a career. Nearly a quarter of all 15-year-olds surveyed responded negatively about how well they fit in at school. Students most reported feeling like outsiders in Korea, Poland and Japan, followed by Belgium and France, whereas students in Austria, Sweden and Switzerland reported a particularly high sense of belonging. Education at a Glance reports that in the two weeks before this survey was conducted, one in five students had missed school, arrived late or skipped classes. Disengagement and eventual dropping out of school may have an economic impact down the road, as Education at a Glance shows a link between levels of education and earnings: those students who further their education generally earn substantially more and in more secure jobs than those with less schooling.

Education at a Glance, the OECD's annual compendium of education statistics, provides a basis for educational policy debate and decision-making.

This year, in addition to several new indicators on literacy skills, student engagement and admission policies, the report focuses on the outcomes of learning, financial resources, access issues, and the learning environment.

©OECD Observer No 244, November 2004

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