Truancy is a worldwide problem. In France, around 8% of Lycée students, and 3% of Collège students skip classes (“sèchent les cours”). But schools take action to limit the trouble. Special commissions are in place to deal with the most persistent offenders.

Parents are sometimes involved in the problem, explaining their children’s unauthorised absences as being due to chronic tiredness. But the “conseillers principaux d’éducation” at secondary schools have been primed to watch out for this, and offer advice to parents regarding setting reasonable times for going to bed, and limiting the number of times students go out during the week. Parental attitude towards education is known to have an influence on the absenteeism of their children too. In households where school and education as a whole is held in low esteem, and thought to be of little value, truancy is much more prevalent. In contrast, the greater the amount of parental supervision, or at least presence, in a household, the lower the rate of absenteeism. Adolescents who see themselves off to school in the morning can succumb to the temptation of having a day off all too easily.

Truants are called to account in front of a “commission educative” organised by the CPE of the school. In their parents’ or guardians’ presence, the students have to explain their absences. It’s not a comfortable meeting, but it acts to alert the parents that they need to tackle the problem, and it can be the turning point for many truants who are either shamed or persuaded into realising that going to school is the better option.

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