DESCRIPTION OF THE SUCCESS STORY
Main actors involved
Director, Ministry of Education, the student
When, where and how the story took place
In the beginning of the school year 2003-2004, a technical and vocational education school of the Liège area received the enrolment of a student in 3rd vocational year (3P). He did his first two years of secondary education in two other schools.
When examining the administrative file of the student (received from the last institute attended), the school realised that the student has the status of “free student” because of his many absences. Therefore he cannot be enrolled in the 3rd year of vocational education.
Indeed, in the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles”, a student who has too many unjustified absences during a same school year loses the status of “élève régulier” (regular student). He becomes a “free student”. It means he is no longer entitled to certification for the year in progress (even if he takes the exams).
In this case, the student should have taken the exams at the “central jury” organised by the Ministry of Education, to receive a success certificate and enrol in 3P.
However, dispensation is possible in case of exceptional circumstances.
The headmaster meets his parents (which did the enrolment in good faith) in order to explain their son’s situation: he has completely dropped out, he is “disgusted” by the school and he does not have anyone to hold on to.
The headmaster decides to give the student a chance and introduced a request for exemption to the Ministry of Education with the collaboration of the parents.
He received the agreement to keep the student in 3P for one year. A long journey to reintegration as regular student and to obtain a diploma starts then for the student.
In the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, students are allowed a certain number of justified and unjustified absences per school year. The presences are checked twice a year by an agent of the Ministry of Education. This regulation is strict. At the moment of the verification, the regularity of the student is screened (number of unjustified and justified absences, motives for justified absences, late arrivals…).
At the end of the 3P, it seems the student has been regularly present and he has passed the year. The verifying agent authorises again the school to keep the student in the 4th year of professional education (4P) for a year.
At the end of the 4P, the situation is the same: the student has been regularly present and he has passed the year. The Ministry of Education finally reintegrates the student in the status of “regular student”. The procedure lasted two years.
This student will finish the school (5P and 6P) and will achieve the “Certificate of high school education” (CESS, a diploma he would not have reaches had he retained the status of free student. He would present the exams to the central jury).
In addition, he will continue a successful seventh year of qualification "office work”.
The reason why the story can be considered a success.
• The student seems to have found quickly his place in the school and he did not have others absences (beyond the authorised number).
• The student finished school and obtained a qualifying diploma.
Starting point of the student
He is a confused kid. He is not motivated by school, he is often absent, so much that he has lost his status of regular student and has become “free student”. This status does not give access to any title or certificate. The student’s schooling is therefore threatened.
Social and economic situation of the family involved
The student lives with his two parents, his brother and his sister. The headmaster describes the family as really friendly but not enough interested in education.
In fact the parents collaborated with the school to manage the problem but they have never reappeared later, not even during graduation.
For those parents school seems dispensable.
Possible explanations of the success
• The headmaster’s decision to accept the student at risk. The headmaster takes a kindly position. He relies on his reschooling despite of a difficult career.
• The flexibility the Ministry of Education displayed when they allowed the exemption (to keep the student in 3P then in 4P).
• The presence of the older brother in the school (regular student) probably influenced the decision of the headmaster and the success of his younger brother.
Interaction between the different actors involved
It is a success story but without the collaboration of the parents. The headmaster had just one meeting with the parents to understand the situation of the student and prepare the application form or the reintegration as regular student. Thereafter the parents did not keep any form of contact with the school.
The headmaster regrets this kind of behaviour that can be found in some families not involved in the education of their own children.
The interactions have been limited to the scholar sphere:
• Mainly with the Ministry of Education: contacts twice a year with the inspector to check the presence of the student at school, his school success and justify the request for reintegration as regular student.
• Monitoring of the student, but not especially for this one who quickly found his way and continued normal education.
Action of education policy
In the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, when a student loses the status of “regular student” he can no longer receive certification for the year in progress. Exemption can be granted by the Ministry in case of exceptional and justified circumstances (Decree of the 24th of July 1997 defining the priority missions of primary and secondary education and organising the structures to achieve them, articles 85).
To consider applying this clause, the now “free” student will to go back to school regularly and assiduously.
Transferability potential of the experience
This kind of experience is based on the good will of the school and its ambition to fight against fatalism. It involves for the school a demanding administrative procedure and a follow-up of the student.