Adolescents and Disengagement from Education


One out of ten teenagers of between sixteen and eighteen years old is either disengaged in education, professional training, or even employment (Verkuyten & Brug 2003). The period between the age of 11 and 17 is characterized by excessive stress. This is the period in which the youths experience puberty and start thinking in a significantly reasonable manner. It is during this stage that teenagers realize their capabilities and want to achieve considerably in terms of self-identity and how they express themselves. This is in an effort to become competent and develop self-esteem. They desire to excel independently and spent quality time with their peers. Also, they depend on their parents and adults. Unfortunately, excellence may be hindered by inadequate resources, or even personal disabilities. Therefore, the youths need to work together with their parents and teachers to ensure that they manage the challenges involved effectively (Christenbury, 2009; Kristjiana & Sigrun, 2012). This proposal will analyze the issues and solutions to youth disengagement from education.

Literature review

More than a fifth of all youths have been estimated to be disengaged from education. This is evidence in the poor labor market opportunities that have been witnessed over the past decades. It has resulted to a very great risk of not being in education, formal employment, or training (Ross, 2009). The adolescents experience a period of rapid change, and this may affect their mental health if they lack adequate attention and support. They should have trusting and caring relationships between them and their parents, as well as teachers who support them in their school work. Offering them opportunities to develop their identities and self-expression builds their competence. They develop a great self-esteem that further promotes their achievement in education and personal development. It is expected that the young people will desire to attend school and reach up to college education level (Arbuckle & Herrick, 2005). This is the least level of education that can assure them decent employment and financial independence. However, this level of education is not attained easily by all young people due to a number of challenges. These include economic strain, ethnic minority issues, poor reading skills, or even an environment that diverts attention from education. Such shortcomings may result to stress, and parents and teachers need to work with the young people to ensure that they achieve their educational goals (Verkuyten & Brug, 2003).

The passion for education can be instilled early in life by parents. This helps in reducing the chances of disengagement. When the young people enroll in school early in life, they may lose interest in the school system. Therefore, it is necessary for parents to guide the children and instill in them the need for education. This way, the children will grow up while valuing education and desire to study up to the highest levels. The current systems’ policies understand young people as all round learners. They have focused on a preventive approach in which they identify the causes of disengagement and tackle them before they affect learners. This is easier than addressing consequences of disengagement (McNeely, Nonnemaker & Blum, 2002). Parents also determine the environment in which the young ones grow. They should ensure that the people around their children motivate them to pursue education. Incidences where drug users are associated with a bigger part of a young one’s life may not be constructive. This may divert the young person’s attention from education to drug use. Therefore, early intervention ensures that children focus on education and develop long term plans for education (Collishaw, et al, 2004).

The education system is another factor that determines whether young people give adequate attention to school work. It should offer innovative practices that give the young ones the motivation to concentrate on studies. When the teachers establish good relationships with the students, they help them in handling stresses that are associated with adolescence. They also give the children an equal opportunity to access education and not only concentrate on the excellent students (Hudley & Gottfried, 2008). Identifying each student’s potential while working with them gives adolescents a sense of worth. It motivates them to concentrate in studies and minimizes the chances of disengagement (Ross, 2009).


Disengagement in education is an issue that affects the adolescents, parents and teachers. The people involved in planning and laying out policies on the education system also determine the quality of education that the young ones can access. This study was based on individual discussions with students who are in school and those who dropped out. Parents and teachers were also engaged in discussions to find out the issues that affect the student’s performance in school. For instance, the discussions involved questions on the challenges affecting students such as home environment, financial status, and the parent-teacher relationships. It also sought to identify the limitations of the school systems. Information was also collected from secondary data that focus of education disengagement.


In this study, four categories of people between the ages of 11 and 18 who are engaged and disengaged from education were identified. In the first category, there were engaged people involved in their school activities and ready to pursue education, giving it their full attention. It encompassed fifty per cent of the young people. Secondly, there were those who were disengaged from school, yet they wished to pursue education. However, they often diverted their attention to other issues while at times skipping classes or even deferring their studies. This accounted for 32% of the young people. Another group was made up of young people who were in school, but did not have interest to pursue their education beyond high school. This was 10 per cent of the study population. The rest of the group was made up of people who did not like school. They opted to concentrate on other capabilities that could earn them a source of livelihood in the future. The young people with the greatest risk of disengagement were found to have poor relationships between their parents and teachers. Others had disadvantaged backgrounds that made accessing resources difficulty (Drennon-Gala, 1995).

Disengagement has been viewed as a personal problem that is as a result of the response given to the problems experienced during adolescence. The adolescent often takes the challenges experience in school or employment as a weakness that need a response. While struggling to overcome these challenges on their own, the adolescents end up being depressed and often choose to quit. This should not be the case, and there should be structures, procedures, and settings that give the young people a chance to interact and learn from peers and their seniors. Such structural programs protect the young people against some of the factors that make them risky. For instance, handling challenges on their own can be very depressing and this makes them prone to disengagement. Depression is often as a result of inadequate resources to access education, decreased employment opportunities, poor health, or even marginalization. Youths experiencing these challenges have a high rate of developing social and mental health issues (Remschmidt, 2007; Blyth, Solomon, Baker & Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (Great Britain), 2007).

Engagement can be promoted by involving the young people in coming up with policies that favor education and services that promote their well-being. Parenting and the home-school relationships are also determinant factors that determine the connection between the youth and these two institutions. They should both offer support to the youths. This is because youths may be disengaged from school while they are still engaged to their families in some instances. There should be a balance between these two institutions. This will help the community to prepare and avoid circumstances in which the youths abuse drugs, experience mental illness or even get suicidal. They are encouraged by the social networks that promote diversity and influence them to make proper decisions and give them a good source of livelihood. This gives them a sense of belonging by uniting them and reduces the chances of disengagement (Sodha & Guglielmi, n.d).


The changes that occur in a young person’s reasoning and view of life can affect them mentally. Disengagement from education is one of the consequences that can occur if these changes are not managed well. The young person reasons differently and is determined to excel in life. This is especially in academic work. Failure to achieve success can damage the self-esteem of a young person. Therefore, it is recommended that parents and teachers should establish close relationships with young people and support them during this period. The young individuals develop their self-esteem and are encouraged to maximize their potential in education when they work in conjunction with teachers and parents. Such close relationships encourage healthy mental development and reduce the chances of disengagement in education.


Arbuckle, M.B. & Herrick, C.A. (2005). Child & adolescent mental health: Interdisciplinary systems of care. Sudbury, Mass: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

Blyth, M., Solomon, E., Baker, K. & Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (Great Britain). (2007). Young people and ‘risk’. Bristol, U.K: Policy Press.

Christenbury, L. (2009). Handbook of adolescent literacy research. New York: Guilford Press.

Collishaw, S. et al. (2004). Time trends in adolescent mental health. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 45(8): 1350–60.

Drennon-Gala, D. (1995). Delinquency and high school dropouts: Reconsidering social correlates. Lanham: Univ. Press of America.

Hudley, C. & Gottfried, A.E. (2008). Academic motivation and the culture of school in childhood and adolescence. New York [u.a.: Oxford Univ. Press.

Kristjiana, B. & Sigrun, A. (2012). Student Disengagement in Relation to Expected and Unexpected Educational Pathways. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research. 56(1): 85-100.

McNeely, C.A., Nonnemaker, J.M. & Blum, R.W. (2002). Promoting School Connectedness: Evidence from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, Journal of School Health, 72: 138-46.

Remschmidt, H. (2007). The mental health of children and adolescents: An area of global neglect. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

Ross, A. (2009). Disengagement from Education among 14-16 year olds. Web.

Sodha, S. & Guglielmi, S. (n.d). A stitch in Time: Tackling Educational Interim Report. Web.

Verkuyten, M. & Brug, P. (2003). Educational performance and psychological disengagement among ethnic-minority and Dutch adolescents. The Journal of genetic psychology: Research and Theory on Human Development, 164(2): 189-200.

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