Thousands of teenagers drop out of school early and projects to combat this phenomenon have steadily increased over the last decade. Numerous studies, mainly in the fields of sociology and psychology, have been dedicated to it. These have tended to focus on the interaction between the pupil, his/her background and the school, the latter being approached from a global perspective. The issues of the school environment, teenagers' self-esteem and their inability to make sense of their learning are widely covered. Surprisingly, the part played by teaching (the predominant activity during the school day) has been practically ignored until now.
This issue of Repères is innovative in that it sets out to plug this gap by addressing the school dropout problem from a didactic perspective, focusing on school subjects and the French language in particular. The issue contains articles which analyse the value of research into didactics and of looking at the school subjects themselves to provide a clear picture of the processes involved in dropping out of school. The articles present research into the relationship between pupils' experiences of school subjects and dropping out, by analysing interviews with "dropouts" and "returners". The interviews were conducted among junior and high school pupils and non-French speaking pupils who are new to the country. Other articles focus on measures to prevent dropping out which are being implemented in priority education schools: approaches to the teaching of writing, or teaching literature. The question of “returners” is addressed with reference to approaches to writing employed in a Paris 'microlycée’ (secondary school for former dropouts).