Why student engagement is so critical for retention in Mexico

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Why student engagement is so critical for retention in Mexico

This month we are discussing different dimensions of student retention and dropouts in higher education. Even though they are common, many countries have particularities. Higher education in Mexico, for instance, has critical challenges in student engagement, which decreases college retention rates.

In specific terms, Latin American universities and higher education institutions must receive students with substantial deficits from their schools of origin and deal with them in a personalized way to help them complete their major. This challenge is not always easy to address. Governments and universities have followed the problem from institutional, academic and teaching factors and have looked at cultural and individual context of student retention.

Lucía Patiño Garzón and Angélica María Cardona Pérez, from Universidad de Iagué in Colombia, say that student retention in higher education is a global concern and that defection is “proportional to the development of the country.  Low quality education systems enhance the vulnerability of people with low academic performance from their high school, which in college turns into desertion.”

In an article, professor Maximiliano Gracia criticizes the quality of education in Mexico, stating that the country equals Turkey as the first country in the OECD in student abandonment.

“Student defection does not only concern young people leaving a bachelor’s degree but their families and the economy of the country. If young people cannot finish an undergraduate degree, there is a lower number of practitioners. Hence, we are less prepared to compete with countries with a higher rate of professionals per capita”, the Ph.D. in Economics asserts.

In summary,

  • – College graduation rates equal 25% of those who entered school (OECD)
  • – Student dropout in Mexico ranges between 7.5% & 8.5% (Mexican Secretary of Education, SEP)
  • – 1 out of 10 college students leave school along the way (Mexican Secretary of Education, SEP)
  • – The highest number of dropouts happen during the first year at a university

Motivation, a key problem

“Ten percent of new students in college change their mind, when they realize that the choices they made didn’t fill their expectations or needs,” explained the Ph.D. in education Gabriela Carrera, from student orientation at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) to the El Mundo de Córdoba.

These are the people who “end up realizing and becoming aware that the degree they are taking is not satisfactory”, she claims.

This increases the number of years students spend in college. OECD states that a significant part of the responsibility for desertion comes from the education system, “leaving the burden of failure to students and families.”

According to a 2010 national survey run by the Youth Institute of Mexico (Encuesta Nacional de la Juventud or ENJ), motivation is one of the primary reasons:

  • – 15% of those who enter university got into an institution that wasn’t their preference, as they had no other choice
  • – 37% claim that they are not enrolled in the school of their choice
  • – 13% say that their studies are “below their expectations”
  • – 16% left school because they were “bored”

Dr. Cabrera concludes that “the work of education counselors in schools is ‘fundamental’ to the integral development of students. The development of responsible people and the choice of issues where they want to contribute to the community, depends on these.”

Academics from Universidad Juárez Autónoma de Tabasco ran a focused qualitative study in the terminal efficiency of students of chemical engineering in their college. Among other things, they concluded that:

  • – Tutorial programs had not achieved all the activities required by regulation, such as individual or group orientation with teaching assistance or foundation courses.
  • – There was a lack of innovation in teaching methods, limiting student engagement, concept appropiation, as well as the development of skills and attitudes to improve performance.
  • – Subjects with highest reprobation and commitment rates are acumulated in the first stages of the major.

There was a lack of innovation in the process of instruction on the part of teachers, limiting the “active participation of students, the appropriation of concepts and the development of skills and attitudes which can improve their performance.”
The subjects with the highest failure rates concentrate on the first years of study

With this evidence in mind, it is important to underline that good orientation and follow up student engagementi s key to detecting early problems that can increase college completion. By dealing responsibly with these factors, school management will be more efficient.

How does your institution observe student motivation? What elements are on the way of keeping track of these kind of situations? We appreciate your comments.