05 November 2010

Drop-out drop detail

The 2008 report on schools from the provincial education department is a wealth of useful information on one of the most important government service areas.

Chapter 10 is about school leavers.  In light of the Statistics Canada report on drop-outs, it’s worth taking a closer look at the way the drop-out rate dropped in this province.

As we know from the Statistics Canada report, 19.9% of young people dropped out of school in Newfoundland and Labrador, on average, in the three years 1991-1993.  By 1996, that figure had declined to 16.7%.

By 2006, that number was down to 8.9%. The rate was lower in 2003, continued downward for the next two years and then jumped up in 2006. The current rate  - 7.4%  - is actually about what the rate was in 2005. The table is taken from the provincial government report.

school leavers 1996-2006

Media reports indicate that a higher percentage of males than females dropped out in this province in 2009 (103% versus 6.6%). That’s a change from a decade and more ago when the male rate was dramatically higher.  According to CBC, “while rates have declined for both sexes, the rate of decrease was faster for men, narrowing the gap between the two.”

The provincial education department has another statistic, though.  It compares rural versus urban rates of school-leaving.  Here’s the provincial government table comparing the rates for all provinces and for the country as a whole.


This sort of statistic doesn’t bode well for economic development in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. And it doesn’t get any better when one considers the trend in the Eastern district, for example, that shows those graduating high school in rural areas are more likely than urban students to leave with a general pass.  n other words, they aren’t necessarily more likely to enter post-secondary education or training.

If a provincial government could only focus on one area in order to produce economic and social benefits to individuals and to the community as a whole, improving educational performance would be it.

Now it is interesting to pick up on comments on the other post on this report.  Both noted the possible influence of the cod moratorium in 1992 on the decline.  On the face of it, the answer seems to be that the moratorium did influence the rate.  Young people in rural areas, especially males, tended to leave school since they could make a living in the fishery or other similar work with a limited education.  Without the cod fishery they might have stayed in school.


The idea is worth exploring but the answer is likely to be more complex. Don’t forget that about 70,000 left Newfoundland and Labrador in the aftermath of the moratorium.  While the drop-out rate declined dramatically in the period between 1993 and 2005, the persistence of a high drop-out rate in rural Newfoundland  suggests there might be other factors at work.

Still, these numbers bear further consideration.

Especially considering the literacy and numeracy rates in the province.

- srbp -