An Examination of Students Failure Problem at the UFR/SEG of the University of Cocody

Doctoral Thesis / Dissertation, 2010

163 Pages, Grade: A



1.1 Justifying the Topic Choice
1.1.1 Professional Reasons
1.1.2 Sociological Reasons
1.1.3 Psycho Pedagogic Reasons
1.2 Statement of the Research Problem
1.2.1 The research Context
1.2.2 View of some Success Rate figures at the UFR/SEG
1.2.3 Few International success Rates versus the Rates of the UFR/SEG
1.2.4 Some Important Questions
1.2.5 General Objectives
1.2.6 Specific Objectives
1.3 Research Hypotheses
1.3.1 General Hypotheses
1.3.2 Specific Hypotheses
1.4 Variables Description
1.4.1 Dependent Variables
1.4.2 Independent Variables Individual Independent Variables Social Class Variables Parents Occupation Variables Family Dwelling Place Variables
1.4.3 Structural Independent Variables Teachers Related Variables Students Related Variables The UFR/SEG Related Variables

2.1. Historical Context of School Failure in France
2. 1.1. From the Creation of the First School in the Ivory Coast and School Failure
2.1.2. What Do We Mean by School Failure?
2.1.3. School Failure and the Point of View of Sociology of Education
2.1.4. Externalist Theories
2.1.5. Cultural Deprivation
2.1.6. Methodological Individualism
2.1.7. Conflictualist Theories
2. 1.8. Lessons from the Two Theories
2.1.9 Bernard Charlot and the View of Anthropology
2.1.10The Ivorian Contribution to the Debate on school Failure

3.1 Research Context
3.1.1 Research Design
3.1.2 Data Collection Approach
3.1.3 Data Collection
3.2. The Questionnaire
3.3 Informed Consent, Sampling Frame and Confidentiality
3.3.1 Informed Consent
3.3.2 Confidentiality
3.3.3 Sampling Frame
3.3.4 Data Sorting
Step 1: coding
Step 2: data processing mask
Step 3: the keyboarding itself
Step 4: data checking
Step 5: data operating and results presentation

4.1 Data Analyses:
4.2. Socio demographic characteristics of respondents
4.2.1 Distribution by dwelling place
4.2.2 Distribution According to sex
4.2.3 Distribution According to age group
4.2.4 The purpose of distribution according to means of transport
4.2.5 Distribution according to departure from home and return time
4.2.6 Distribution according to the number of meals per day
4.2.7 Students’ behavior regarding their studies
4.2.8 Dwelling place and students’ ability to read their courses at home
4.2.9 Going back home time and the fact of reading their courses
4.2.10The means of transport used and the fact of reading their courses
4.2.11 Studying period
4.2.12 How do the UFR/SEG students learn their courses?
4.2.13 Average study time per day
4.2.14 Study period and assistance of another student
4.2.15. The fact of missing one or more courses for lack of money for transport
4.2.16. The fact of missing courses and dwelling place
4.2.17 Causes of students’ massive failure 75 4.2.18 Perception of the UFR/SEG students on the possible causes of failure
4.2.19 Students’ failure: the responsibility of the Ivorian society and students’ families
4.2.20 Students’ failure: teachers’ responsibilities
4.2.21 Belief in the use of magic to succeed
4.2.22 Students’ opinion on the proposal to correct the first exam session in class before the second exam session
4.2.23 Students’ opinion on the introduction of one or two tests before the exam
4.2.24 Students’ failure: responsibility of the University authorities
4.3. The UFR/SEG students’ training and job offers
4.3.1. Examination of job offers
4.3.2. Analyzing stripped job offers The mode of recruitment Job offers according to sex The required degrees Required experience in number of years Requirements in good command of English and computer science The most frequent Job Offers
4.3.3 Limitations
4.3.4 General presentation of the UFR/SEG
4.3.5 Different study stages Undergraduates. Graduates . Post graduates
4.3.6 The place of the English language
4.3.7 Teaching Methods
4.3.8 Lectures
4.3.9 TDs
4.3.10 Assessment Methods
4.3.11 Place of assessments

5.1 Our findings
5.1.1 Findings on the UFR/SEG students’ failure to pass their exams variables Individual independent variables Social Class, parent occupation and family dwelling place variables Social class variables Parents’ occupation variables Family dwelling place variables Conclusion What are the causes of students’ failure related to society? Conclusion about Parents’ Occupation Variables What are the causes of Students’ failure related to Students’ Families? Conclusion Structural Individual Variables Teachers’ Related Variables Students’ related variables How are the causes of students’ failure related to students themselves? Students’ Opinions on their courses
5.2 Students’ learning habits
5.3 Conclusion
5.4 The UFR/SEG related variables
5.4.1 What are the causes of students’ failure related to the UFR/SEG or the University of Cocody as an institution?
5.4.2 Conclusion
5.4.3 Students’ failure to find a good employment
5.4.4 Employers’ preferred offer mean
5.4.5 Job offers according to sex
5.4.6 Job offers according to degrees
5.4.7 Job offers according to years of experience
5.4.8 Job offers according to the good command of the English language
5.4.9 Job offers according to the mastery of computer science
5.4.10 The Conclusion on our findings

6.1 Conclusion
6.1.1Findings on students’ incapacity to pass their exam
6.1.2 Findings on graduates’ inability to find a suitable job
6.2 Implications
6.3 Recommendations
6.3.1 Professionalization of the UFR/ESG teachers’ job
6.3.2 Change in training policy at the UFR/SEG
6.3.3 Dissolution of the CROU and its replacement by a private entity
6.3.4 Assess students at least twice before final exam
6.3.5 A forum per subject and per level after the results of the first exam session
6.3.6 Two language Laboratories for a better learning environment for the English Language
6.3.7 Increase the capacity of the computer science room
6.3.8 Help the government of Cote D’Ivoire fight the existing corruption
6.4 Summary
6.5 Further Research Questions



Table 1: Evolution of the percentage of Students who passed per academic year

Table 2: Statistics of Success per Exam session, academic year and year of study

Table 3: Distribution of students according to the fact of reading their courses and their dwelling place in (%)

Table 4: Distribution of students according to their ability to read their courses and their home return time

Table 5: Distribution of students according to their means of transport and their ability to read their courses at home

Table 6: Average time of study according to students’ home return time

Table 7: Distribution of the students according to their moment of studies and the assistance of a student

Table 8: Distribution of students according to the fact of missing courses and dwelling place

Table 9: Various moments devoted by the UFR/SEG students to their courses

Table 10: Comparison between secondary school teachers and University teachers’ ways of teaching

Table11: Students’ Opinions on Lectures Taught in Amphitheaters

Table 12: Belief in the use of magic to succeed

Table 13: students’ opinion on some additional instructions between the first and the second exam session

Table 14: students’ opinion about some assessments before Final exam

Table 15: Students’ Perception on a possibility to cheat while taking their Exams in large groups and rooms

Table 16: Success by Fraud at the UFR/SEG

Table 17: Job offers according to the Required Degrees

Table 18: Job offers according to the Required Experience in Number of Years

Table 19: Job offers according to the mastery of the English language

Table 20: Job offers according to the Mastery of Computer Science

Table 21: Job offers according to the group of professions


Figure 1: UFR/SEG Students’ Passing Rates per academic year 44/

Figure 2: UFR/SEG Students’ Passing Rate per Academic Year and per Study Level 45/

Figure 3: Presentation of the data entry form

Figure 4: Distribution of students according to Dwelling Place (in %)

Figure 5: Distribution of students according to sex

Figure 6: Distribution of students according to age

Figure 7: Distribution of students according to the used means of transport (in %)

Figure 8: Distribution of students according to the time of departure to the campus

Figure 9: Distribution of students’ home return time (in %)

Figure 10: Distribution of students according to the number of meals taken per day

Figure 11: Distribution of students per types of meal taken per day

Figure 12: Distribution of the UFR/SEG students according to their moment of exam preparation

Figure 13: Distribution of the UFR/SEG students according to their way of studying

Figure 14: Distribution of the UFR/SEG students according to the fact of missing courses for lack of money

Figure 15: Distribution of the UFR/SEG students According to the Frequency of Classes missed

Figure 16: Possible Failure Causes

Figure 17: Other Failure Causes relating to the Ivorian Society

Figure 18: Students’ Opinions on Teachers’ Mastery of their Course Contents .79

Figure 19: Students’ Opinions on the Lectures received in amphitheatres

Figure 20: Students’ Opinions on their Own Way of Studying at the End of their

Secondary Education and their current Way of Studying at the UFR/SEG

Figure 21: Factors that May contribute to Academic Failure

Figure 22: Links between Lectures in amphitheatres and ‘’TDs’’

Figure 23: Students’ Opinions on Previous Assignments before Final Exam


The second half of the nineteenth century experienced the invention of the first steam engine in Europe by James Watt which in turn generated the emergence of different types of plants for the manufacture of a variety of articles.

This created new needs and the desire to satisfy them. First, Europeans were in need of a market where to sell off all those manufactured products. Second, they were looking for a place where to get enough raw materials to go on producing.

Faced with those problems, Europe once again decided to turn to Africa, that continent which, few centuries ago, provided them with slaves who were at the origin of their past economic growth. Slavery being abolished, that time, nobody would be deported to Europe. They had to adopt a different strategy.

They would move to Africa, where all they needed was available: the land, the labor, and the market. They would create huge farms on the vast lands extorted from the natives. They would use the almost free labor and harvest huge quantities of produces for their plants in Europe, sell the third class production to Africans, and keep the top class quality for their own use.

Those commercial ideas in mind were reinforced by the proximity of the African continent to Europe. Their past fear to penetrate the interior has now vanished thanks to some new scientific discoveries such as the Maxim gun and the malaria medication quinine. Thus, as Rit Nosotro clearly stated: “to avoid a European war that might arise from the conflicting claims, Otto Von Bismark, the German chancellor called for the Berlin conference from November 1884 to December 1885” (2008).

Thus, Africa was shared and huge coffee, cocoa, and palm farms (for cooking and table oil production) were created. Simultaneously, they started the exploitation of gold and diamond mines, still with the use of the African cheap labor.

Being in business, they were eager to overcome any obstacles. For example, when they were facing difficulties in transporting their productions, they used to create roads. When they experienced oppositions in their insatiable exploitation of the land, they used to sign agreements or treaties with African chiefs.

Contrary to Julio Gody for whom colonialism never enhanced Africa, we believe that it opened at least Africa to the world through Education, then through language (2006). Indeed, the most important problem European colonizers were facing was that of communication. To communicate normally required a staff able to speak the colonizers’ languages, a staff that could read, write and calculate. This is how the idea of creating of the first schools emerged.

In a school, one can fail, although the general expectation is success. In other words, wherever there is a school, there is also a possibility of failure. It is because schools exist that we can talk of school or academic failure.

This is what, historically, justifies our subject devoted to the examination of students’ failure at the UFR/SEG of the University of Cocody. We cannot talk of failure at school if school is not part of the environment. This being said, the next thing to do is to justify the reasons of the choice of this topic.

1.1. Justifying the Topic Choice :

“ Graduation rates, dropout rates are one of the things we're judged on” . Glean McClain

Three main reasons justify our choice for this topic:

1. Professional
2. Sociological
3. Psycho pedagogic

1.1.1 Professional Reasons :

The first reason accounting for the choice of this topic is professional. Indeed, being a teacher of English for specific purposes at the UFR /SEG since 1986 (with some interruptions to study in the United Kingdom and US), I got the opportunity to work with about twenty generations of students.

It is always a pleasure for me to meet former students of the UFR/SEG, and find out that some of them are getting on very well, but it also happens to me to meet some former students who could not get a stable situation and this is a source of deep sadness for me too.

For me passing a high university degree like the master’s degree and being unable to get an employment puts the holder of such a degree in the same situation as those who were not able to pass their exam. It is also a kind of failure; it is a failure as well.

As an associate teacher at the UFR/SEG, I was deeply concerned when I met a man whose physical appearance would give you the impression that you are facing an illiterate. This man introduced himself to me as a former student of the UFR/SEG, during the academic year 1986- 1987.

The man explained to me that all his attempts to take part in employment tests resulted in failure, because he had no money to bribe those in charge of employment tests. For him, before being preferred by the selection board during employment tests, the selection board members sometimes demand huge amounts of money, varying from the equivalence of USD 2,000 to USD 4,000. I could not believe my ears! As the French novelist and political writer Georges Bernanos wrote a long time ago; “the first sign of corruption in a society that is still alive is that the end justifies the means” (1888-1948), I was facing, not only the evidence that high level corruption exists in my country but also that school failure exists even for those who passed their degrees.

To survive, this gentleman sells used spare parts for cars, a job that can very well be performed by an illiterate. Through this man I met others who no longer believe in any chance to get an employment. How can we help them? How can we prevent similar cases in the future?

If this research can modestly help in finding a solution to assist all those too numerous present and/or former students, who have been experiencing failure, it would be a contribution to the advancement of the UFR/SEG and by extension to the progress of my country: the Ivory Coast.

1.1.2 Sociological Reasons :

A survey conducted in December 2009 in order to identify the reasons why American college students’ dropout revealed that the desire to find a full time job was the main reason for 50% of college students. According to the American Department of Education, 89% of them promised to return to college (Web article, 2009).

This tendency to find a full time employment seems universal. In Ivory Coast, many parents send their children to school because they are expecting them to get a bright future through a good job. Only very few parents expect their offspring to engage in personal business or work in a family company.

Students also want a job even if, for almost twenty years now, there is no real employment policy initiated by the different governments of our country in order to help job seekers whose number has been increasing exponentially every year.

Today, if a company needs a watchman and sends an advertisement through the media, Master’s degree holders will be numerous to take part in the test, because in every family we can find university leavers holding the equivalence of a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree who are jobless and this lasts for years. In such a context, young Ivorians do not leave college for a job. They would rather be graduates in order to increase their chance to get one.

To survive, they transform their personal mobile phone into a commercial one so that those who have no credit can call from it. But this small business can only give them the opportunity to earn as little as from thirty to forty US dollars monthly.

The situation is so serious that primary and secondary school pupils, who see their elder brothers and sisters unemployed, though they are holders of university degrees, may have less motivation for their studies. Besides, some of them do not even feel like living, because they have nothing to expect from their present life. Why should they make efforts for studies that seem useless?

To express their disappointment, they have discovered a way chocking the whole nation through what they call “BORO D’ENJAILLEMENT”, a dangerous game which consists in jumping from one bus in circulation to another, while young spectators of their age are clapping and cheering.

Many accidents and deaths do occur, but those accidents, those deaths do not dissuade those young people, generally boys, from giving up this dangerous game.

We would like to call the attention of the government and the whole nation on the fact that it is a great danger for the whole society to live with people who do not find great interest in staying alive, because they have the impression that their whole life is a failure.

Not only is their life a failure, but they cannot expect any hope at all for their future! They are overwhelmed by one thing: failure and because of this failure, living or dying makes no real sense to them!

Such boys who do not find any difference between staying alive and being dead would easily accept a payment for a murder! Such boys would not hesitate to take part in a hold up! The Ivorian political leaders should know that international war mercenaries are recruited among these types of citizens.

As pointed out by Simone Ehivet Gbabgo (2007, page 352), on September19, 2002, most of the people who attacked the state of Cote d’Ivoire were those with poor education or no education at all (cooks and fridge repairers) who most of the time did not have their primary school certificate!

Besides, those who proved their ferocity in the west of the Ivory Coast were recruited among those young boys and girls. That is why we are convinced that examining students’ failure at the UFR /SEG will be a contribution to a solution to some national problems.

1.1.3 Psycho Pedagogic Reasons:

Our attempt to identify the causes of students’ failure will surely give us the opportunity to criticize the Education system in which we operate, we mean the way teaching or transmission of knowledge is operated. We will also get the opportunity to analyze and see if the way we have been teaching is actually the way we should.

Another opportunity to study students’ learning habits and behaviors will inspire solutions or suggestions that will surely contribute to the creation of a better future learning environment more favorable to success!

Besides, in the light of the general theory of academic failure and in the light of Winston Churchill’s quote according to which “success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm”, we will make our self assessment and see what we need to do for our students to experience more success (Quotes by Winston Churchill, 2009)!

This piece of work will be completed through seven main chapters: chapter one which aims at introducing our research work will enable us to present the nature and the purpose of this study. It will also present our research questions and state the importance of this research.

Chapter two will be devoted to the review of the current literature on school failure. In so doing, this chapter will first introduce us to the historical context of school and school failure, born in developed countries, and the way they were imported to Africa, and particularly to the Ivory Coast.

Chapter three will present the research methodology we intend to use. This presentation will start from the research context, move to the research design and research questions, sample population presentation, informed consent, confidentiality, and will be extended to data collection.

Chapter four will be devoted to Data analyses and interpretation. As for chapter five, it will present our findings and conclusion. This chapter will start by a general conclusion of what we have achieved so far in this research. Then, we will give a short view of the different implications of our findings.

Chapter six is the chapter of some policy recommendations. After presenting the implications of our findings, we will make some policy recommendations. A short summary will serve as a general conclusion for this piece of work.

The very last chapter which will include the annex, the questionnaire and the bibliography is chapter seven. The bibliography includes all documents, books, websites, articles, newspapers, etc… read, quoted or simply consulted before and during this piece of work.

1.2 Statement of the Research Problem

I n the light of what has been presented as reasons that justify the choice of our topic, one thing is clear: students at the UFR/SEG are facing a big problem of school failure. This failure can be seen through students’ results during their different examinations, but also through students’ failure in finding an employment.

“Of all the aspects of social misery nothing is so heartbreaking as unemployment”. Jane ADDAMS

The problem of students’ failure is real. Statistics exist to confirm this fact. What we need to know is how to identify the real causes, and what to do to help in finding some solutions.

To try to identify the causes of students double failure, first their failure to pass their examination, and second, when the few who finally pass their exam fail to find an employment. This second failure, the failure to get an employment after graduation puts the happy degree holders in the same situation as those who were unable to pass their examination.

(Sometimes, some Masters’ degree holders are in a worse situation than those who fail in their examinations. One example justifying this is the situation of “a former student” who lives on the sales of used car parts, a job formerly practiced by illiterates only. If nothing is done, university graduate girls will join men very soon.)

This is also the case of young girls who accept to be house girls for a monthly salary of USD 30 or USD 40, with a masters’ degree in Economics, sociology, or criminology. From this example, we can assert that these girls although they are holders of a Master’s degree, they are in the same situation as other girls who have never been to school.

The logical reaction for a young person (a student) who has gone through such an experience, or who finds people around him experiencing similar situations, is to lack motivation and the lack of motivation can also be a cause of failure.

This is also true for a teacher who feels that his students are not interested in his lectures. Such a teacher is likely to lose all his motivation. The logical question to ask now is the following: Do students fail at the UFR/SEG for their own lack of motivation? Do they fail for the lack of teachers’ motivation? What are teachers’ roles in their students’ failure? What is the role of the university system in students’ failure? What is the part of students’ families in their failure? What is the role that the whole society played in this general failure of students?

The numerous questions on students’ failure are the foundations of this research problem. These questions lead to five fundamental questions:

1. What are the causes of students’ failure related to the society?
2. What are the causes of students’ failure related to students’ families?
3. What are the causes of students’ failure related to teachers?
4. What are the causes of students’ failure related to students themselves?
5. What are the causes related to the University as an institution?

To my knowledge, these fundamental questions are answered nowhere in books. The answers are not available in any government file either. Neither do we have them personally. The only choice left to us is research. We will try to play the role of an explorer, in order to look for what we do not know, to look for what we ignore! Did Confucius not say that “real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance” (Confucius, 2009)?

Our objective in this exploration will be the identification of the causes of students’ failure and how to contribute in the search for solutions. Such an exploration will be very useful in a sense that to our knowledge, nobody has tried to identify the causes of students’ failure at the UFR/SEG of the University of Cocody yet, though the problem has been in existence for at least fifteen years.

The empirical research on a social problem that affects the University of Cocody and particularly, many young people who are not taking part in the development of the economy of their country deserves all our attention and energy.

Treating this problem through the theories and principles of Education will have a triple interest. First, it will be a very interesting university research subject to a problem that took place at the University. Second, if this research leads to answers to our numerous questions, it will be our modest contribution. Third, of course, it will give us the opportunity to propose a few solutions that we wish, will be helpful for that great number of youth who are facing that employment problem.

As a conclusion, the examination of students’ failure at the UFR /SEG is very interesting on the plan of research. It is also theoretical (answering questions) and practical (through solutions).

1.2.1 The research Context

Students’ failure at the UFR/SEG can be considered as a crucial Education problem, a problem that deserves all our attention. The following lines will present official figures from the UFR/SEG. This official source can be consulted in the appendix.

1.2.2 View of some Success Rate figures at the UFR/SEG

For example, during the academic year 2004- 2005, 7446 students registered at the UFR of Economics and Management from the first year to the Masters’. Among this population, only 2556 were able to succeed, with a rate of 34.32 per cent of success (the UFR/SEG exam sources)!

Such a success rate also means that 65.68 percent of this student population failed either in their exams, or to move to the next class level.

The academic year2005 2006 recorded almost a worse result. On the total of 8486 students who registered, only 2661 experienced the joy of success, that is to say that only 31.35 per cent of them succeeded. The failure rate was consequently 68.65 per cent.

In 2006 2007, 6592 students registered at the UFR of Economics and Management for a success rate of 36.92 per cent. Indeed, only 2434 succeeded whereas 4158 of them failed. The failure rate, as you can see, is 64.08 per cent (UFR/SEG statistics sources)!

Up to the academic year 2006 2007 the success rate has been low but has never dropped below 30 per cent. The academic year 2007 2008 was a break to our tradition. Indeed, only 1945 students of the 6878 who registered experienced a success! The success rate was only 28.2 per cent with of course, a failure rate of 71.8 per cent.

1.2.3 Few International Success Rates versus the Rates of the UFR/SEG:

During the academic year 2005 2006, at the moment the UFR/SEG was registering a success rate of only 31.35 per cent, in France the university la Sorbonne registered a success rate of 95 per cent. During the same period, the Canadian York University registered 95 per cent of success rate (Wikipedia source).

In the same period, Concordia University of Montreal was experiencing a substantial success rate of 93 per cent. The free Faculty of Economics and Management of the French Universite Catholique de Lille also experienced a success rate of 94 per cent (Wikipedia source)! Why is the success rate so low at the University of Cocody? Why is the failure rate so high at the UFR/SEG?

To answer this crucial question and the questions above, we will analyze existing failure causes, previously identified by researchers and see if they are applicable to our topic. These existing causes will give a broad comprehension of the phenomenon but we will not limit our researches to them. We will also interview different partners of the schooling system.

1.2.4 Some Important Questions

The figures above on the success rates of different universities prove that some universities are more or less exposed to failure than others. It will be interesting to identify why some university learners are more successful than others?

Francine Best (1999) seems to have an answer to this question when she writes that efficient schools are those in which the general atmosphere is favorable to learning. What is the nature of the atmosphere at the UFR/SEG which is the basis of such a failure rate? What does she mean by atmosphere?

If it is true that teachers level at the UFR/SEG is similar to that of many other universities, because the majority of teachers are Doctors in their fields, one cannot assert that the means of that UFR can be compared to those of the universities named above for comparison sake. Can this partially explain that high failure rate at the UFR/SEG?

If teachers are comparable intellectually, same qualifications as teachers of other nations, can we say that they can perform the same way? Are teachers trained for their new job after their Doctorate Degree? Are they aware of the principles governing their profession? Does the fact of holding a Doctorate degree in Economics or mathematics or Management confer the craft of teaching? Doest it confer the craft of students’ assessment?

These questions are important in a sense that Perrenoud (1984) demonstrates that the way teachers assess a student can have a positive or a negative impact on the latter’s’ success. A good assessment method can be an incentive to students’ learning.

A doctorate degree is the highest degree that a student can expect to have. If at the UFR/SEG most of the teachers are holders of such a high degree, we can definitely make the assumption that each of them has enough knowledge in the field in which he is specialized. The remaining question is the following; is it enough to know to be a good teacher?

This question is fundamental in a sense that it was at the origin of Didactics, the art or science of teaching (Collins, 2003). It is also the science that studies the conditions governing the acquisition of knowledge in a particular subject.

For specialists of Didactics, a good mathematician is not necessarily a good mathematic teacher. For them knowing very well a subject does not necessarily confer the ability to teach that subject. Having knowledge is very important for a teacher, but having knowledge is not enough to teach.

In this sense specialists talk of didactics in every subject. For example the English didactics will be seen as the art or science to teach English as a school subject, the same way Plane would talk of the French didactics (2002).

Besides, it is also important to note that mathematics is not taught the same way as literature or English. This simply means that every subject has it own way to be taught. This implies that there are different types of didactics (Monroe, 2008).

This shows the importance of teacher training. It will be very good to verify if teachers at the UFR/SEG received adequate training that turns the Ph.D. holders that they are into real professionals of Education well aware of ways and manners to transmit knowledge. This leads to a question: Do students fail at the UFR/SEG because teachers are not trained as professionals of knowledge transmission? In another word, what are teachers’ responsibilities in students’ failure at the UFR/SEG?

The most common causes identified by researchers who have studied school failure are related to society, students’ families, teachers, students themselves, and school as an institution. Are these causes applicable to the case of students at the UFR/SEG?

1.2.5 General Objective:

Our aim is to identify the reasons why the success rate is so low at the UFR/SEG. To reach our goal we have identified five crucial questions which need to be answered in the course of this piece of work. They are the following:

1. What are the causes of students’ failure related to society?
2. What are the causes of students’ failure related to students’ families?
3. What are the causes of students’ failure related to teachers?
4. What are the causes of students’ failure related to students themselves?
5. What are the causes of students’ failure related to the University as an institution?

1.2.6 Specific Objectives :

Our specific objectives are related to the different questions raised above. We hope that the answers to those questions will contribute in reaching our goal which is also that of Massimo D'Azelglio who wrote: “everyone ought to be committed to appropriated education until death comes” . Such a noble aim can be hindered by repetitive failures (2009, AIU student handbook).

2.5.1 We propose to identify some students’ failure causes related to the Ivorian society. This subsection will be an opportunity to initiate a short analysis of facts, principles and behaviors that, for one reason or another contribute to students’ failure.

2.5.2 We aim at identifying the causes of students’ failure related to students’ families. By this we mean to find out facts, and behaviors that may prevent students at the UFR/SEG from succeeding in their studies and in getting a good job.

2.5.3 This subsection will give us the opportunity to find out if teachers play a certain role in students’ failure. In another word, we aim at checking if it is proved that those who are in charge of leading students to success contribute to their failure.

2.5.4 We will try to identify how students themselves can contribute to their own failure. Do they always make enough effort toward their studies? Can they manage their study time efficiently? Do they have enough motivation?

2.5.5 Our objective in this subsection is to identify how the University of Cocody as an institution can contribute to students’ failure. By the University of Cocody we also mean the UFR/SEG.

1.3. Research Hypotheses :

“I cannot give any scientist of any age better advice than this: the intensity of a conviction that a hypothesis is true has no bearing over whether it is true or not”. Sir Peter Brian

To deal with a problem every researcher may have a personal idea, about the problem. This personal idea may be vague. This or these ideas may guide him, but nothing proves that they are right as long as they are not verified. These vague and unverified ideas are what we call hypotheses.

When many vague ideas can be summed up into a general idea, we talk of general hypothesis. We generally put many unverified ideas under the title of specific hypotheses. The following lines will follow the plan: General Hypothesis, Specific Hypotheses and Variables descriptions.

1.3.1 General hypothesis :

It is difficult to identify a unique hypothesis to the crucial problem of students’ failure at the UFR/ SEG. Students’ failure at the UFR/SEG has many interconnected causes. Therefore, we are presently unable to identify a general hypothesis here. In case an obvious hypothesis is easily discovered, please, forgive our ignorance or stupidity. Did Albert Einstein not say that “only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity” and later added that “he was not sure of the former”(Famous quotes,2009)

1.3.2 Specific hypotheses:

The aim of this piece of work is to check the following hypotheses:

1. There is a relationship between the Ivorian society and students’ failure at the UFR/SEG.
2. There is a relationship between students’ families and students’ failure.
3. Teachers at the UFR/SEG play a role in students’ failure.
4. Students who fail have a role in their own failure.
5. The University as an institution plays a certain role in students’ failure.

1.4 Variables’ Descriptions:

This piece of work aims at conducting an operational research. As such, we need to put the different terms or notions under the term “variables.” The above specific hypotheses will be verified according to two main variables: dependent variables and independent variables.

1.4.1 Dependent Variables :

These variables are the consequences of independent variables. In our context,

that of the examination of students’ failure at the UFR/SEG of the university of Cocody, the dependent variable is students’ failure. This failure can be measured or assessed through students’ marks or exam results available at the administration of the UFR/SEG.

1.4.2 Independent Variables:

Independent variables are all the variables that lead to students’ failure. Two categories can be defined in this piece of work:

-Individual independent variables
-Structural independent variables Individual Independent Variables:

These variables will be concerned with:

-Social Class
-Parents’ Occupation
-Family Dwelling Place Social Class Variable:

Every society has three main classes: the class of the rich, the middle class and the class of the poor. This is also true for the Ivorian society, but in this piece of work, we intentionally decided to class the Ivorian society into two main social classes; the class of the rich and that of the poor.

The reason for this decision is that the review of the literature on school failure will present only two classes; the privileged class or the rich, and the poor class. We simply wish to be in accordance with what preceding and well known researchers have established.

Students originating from each class will be easily identified through the district in which they live, their parents’ occupation, and their physical appearance. For example, do they come to the university by bus, are they dropped by their parents, the driver, or do they come to the university driving their own car or one of the cars belonging to the family?

The answers of these questions will easily inform us of students’ social class and the only fact of asking these questions introduces us to new variables: parents’ occupations and family dwelling place. Parents’ Occupations Variables:

“ What good is social class and status? Truthfulness is measured within. Pride in one's status is like poison - holding it in your hand and eating it, you shall die”. Sri Guru Granth Sahib

This variable can easily inform us about every student’s social status. Family Dwelling Place Variable :

This variable provides the same type of information as the preceding variable. As stated by Jacques Lautrey (1980) school failure takes its origin at home where there are different educational principles, values, and behaviors. The significance of students’ living place and condition is therefore imperative to know.

However, we must not stop to the mention of the district where a given students says he lives. We know that near every nice part of the town, there are always shanty towns where the houseboys and drivers of the bosses living in these smart places also live.

Actually, the place where these houseboys and drivers live has the same name as the place where their bosses live, but one cannot say that both social classes are living in the same condition.

If we had to compare, we would say that the boss lives in Heaven whereas the employees live in Hell. We will do our best to avoid similar confusions.

1.4.3 Structural Independent Variables:

These are all the variables that are related to the structure called UFR/SEG. According to Collins, a structure is the way the different parts of a given thing are interrelated. It is also the way the different parts work together. It is also the way the different parts of a system are organized (2003).

In the context of this piece of work, structural independent variables are those variables that deal with the UFR/SEG as a complex structure. Under this title we will try to identify failure causes related to teachers, students themselves and to the UFR/SEG as an institution.

1. 4.3.1Teachers Related Variables:

T hese variables will help us identify if teachers are or are not factors that can explain the failure of their students.

This will give an opportunity to question the way teachers at the UFR/SEG transmit knowledge to their students. This refers to teaching methods used and raises the question of teacher training at the UFR/SEG.

Specific items such as lectures, this traditional method that consists in a long monolog during which students have no opportunity or less opportunity to ask questions will be analyzed in order to identify if it contributes or not to students’ failure.

This variable will also give the floor to students who will help us identify if the assessment methods used at the UFR/SEG contribute or not to students’ failure. Students Related Variables:

The learning process implies a certain interaction between two partners: the learner and the teacher. The teacher may be good, but if the learner fails to make necessary efforts that are requested from him, it will be very difficult for such a learner to learn. Passing his exam will be admitted as the evidence that the student has learnt.

This variable will give the opportunity to assess students’ learning habits. The main objective here is to identify whether students are or are not factors that can explain their own failure in their exams.

This will attract our attention on learners’ own motivation towards their learning, their time management relative to their learning, and the conditions under which examinations do take place. The UFR/SEG Related Variables :

UFR/SEG as an institution has its own organization which does depend, neither on teachers, nor on students. For example, we ignore why teachers are not fully involved in the organization of the examinations. Does the UFR/SEG not trust its teachers? If that is the case, the administration should consider that warning from Mother Teresa:”the biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis but rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for and deserted by everybody” (popular quotes, 2009).

What is actually happening is that teachers choose examination topics, they reproduce them according to the number of candidates, keep a close watch on the composition process in order to dissuade prospective cheaters, and handle the copies to the administration. After that copies, are left to the members of the administration who are in charge of turning the copies into nameless copies.

Later, the copies are given to teachers for grading and return them to the administration members who put back the names, before the copies are given back to teachers, the day of the jury’s due deliberation.

If the objective is to prevent some teachers from helping some students succeed, what proves that the administrative staff are not submitted to the same temptation if not a greater one?

Teachers are far better paid than civil servants of the I vorian administration, those who are entrusted the role to control the whole process of copy treatment. Who of the two can be bribed more easily? According to Thomas Jefferson, “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” And we know that most teachers at the UFR/SEG are honest (popular quotes).

This variable will contribute in identifying what actually happens behind and which is not known by the Dean, and which may or not contribute to students’ failure.

Conclusion :

“Integrity is telling myself the truth, and honesty is telling the truth to other people”. Spencer Johnson

The preceding variables were selected in relation with the population that faces the crucial problem of failure. We mean students at the UFR/SEG to whom the opportunity will be given to give out their own appreciation of their failure problem.



After this short presentation of the different variables, it seems important to us to introduce the subject of our analysis: An Examination of Students’ failure at the UFR/SEG. What do we mean by failure? Since when are the world citizens talking of failure in schools? Is the case subject of our study the sole one or is it a general phenomena experienced by other countries and schools?

The answers to the above questions will lead us to talk about the historical context of school failure in Europe, particularly in France, first. The reason for the choice of France is that this nation colonized the country in which this study is conducted and the history of France has many things in common with that of the Ivory Coast.

Then, we will demonstrate in subchapter two how school failure started at the early creation of the first school in the Ivory Coast.

2.1: Historical Context of School Failure in France

The year 1918 reminds the end of the First World War. In France, the government initiated an ambitious program called “l’ecole obligatoire pour tous”. With that plan, schooling became compulsory for all primary school boys or girls. The consequence of such a policy was the increase of the number of young people who enter school every year.

Teachers started to experience that some school boys and girls were unable to follow the majority. For example, some school boys and girls who were taught the craft of reading were unable to read whereas the majority of them were able to read fluently. The notion of school delay was introduced to refer to those boys and girls who were experiencing some particular difficulties during their learning process.

Some Education specialists such as (Establet and Baudelot, 1989) preferred to use the expression “le niveau baisse’’ to express what will be known later as ‘’retard scolaire” or school delay. Progressively this phenomenon became general. (Darom et Bartel, 1981) and (Patrick Gosling, 1992), will bring their scientific light regarding whose responsibility is involved in this school delay. Their results will reveal that teachers agree to be responsible for learners’ success but refuse the responsibility of their failure!

The notion of school delay will be associated to the names of some scientists such as Binet and Ferdinand Brusson who were the first volunteers to study the phenomenon of school delay. A new profession was progressively born; that of the first school psychologists! Their role was to study and find solutions to this problem of school delay. The Grenoble center of school psychology was created in 1945 to provide those boys and girls with scientific assistance and that center was the first of the kind in France.

Later, the psychoanalyst Georges Mauco founded the first psycho pedagogy center of Paris. Thus, the craft of teaching children has taken a positive and scientific turn and from compulsory schooling in primary schools, the different governments in France initiated a series of sensitization campaigns and reforms to incite the French population perceive a link between high Education and social class.

For example, secondary school became free in 1960 to incite those who finish their primary Education to get enrolled straight in secondary schools. The new challenge for the populations is to go as far as possible to school and get degrees that are perceived as the key to social success!

It is in this new environment in which the French devoted the highest interest to schooling, degrees and education that school failure as a social problem, school failure as a problem involving a large proportion of the population was born, and it was in 1960!

France was not alone to face this problem of school failure. For example, it was at the same period (in the 1960s) that the same phenomenon appeared in the USA under the term school dropout. The 1966 Coleman reports studied the equality of success chance concluded that the number of students per class has less important on learners’ success rate. For them, what matters the most among seventeen variables characterizing school are learners’ socio-economic and family condition and learner’s image about himself. The conclusion of James Colman who conducted that study was that a learner’s success has a strong link between his own education environment and his aspirations. For him the feeling to control one’s destiny surely has an influence on one’s success (1966).

Other countries experienced the same problem too, that is the case of Great Britain where the 1967 national survey on their Education system lead to the Plowden report. According to this report, there was no confirmation that learners learn more or less in small classes.(Cherkaoui et Linsdsey, 1974).Other British researchers will come to the same conclusion. Those were the cases of John Heim and Pearl Lewis (1974) and Torstein Husen (1972).

As for Peakes he found that other favorable circumstances explain the relative learners’ success in large classes not the size of the class itself (1974). Rutter will also show that there was no significant correlation between learners’ success and the class size (1979).The assurance that the link between the class size and learners’ success is not identical to all learner types will come from Cherka Mohamed end Lindsey James. They will prove that poor social class learners succeed in large classes whereas the children of the rich experience less success in large classes. They work better in small size classes (1974).

In Scandinavia, a survey conducted on 3,691 learners led to the following conclusions: the highest success rates were got in classes containing from 26 to 30 learners whereas the lowest success rates were observed in classes containing from 21 to 25 learners (Alfred Yates, 1962).

Hence, very few differences were observed when those classes sizes were organized into homogeneous, heterogeneous and intermediaries (1974, page 250). Here too, they did not note a major difference between the size of a class, and learners’ success! Sixten Markund (1962).

As we can see, the problem of school failure is a universal problem experienced or being experienced by every country. Perhaps, we can talk of school failure in the Ivory Coast without locating the problem in its historical context, but it seems better to us and more interesting to make this location before moving further. The next lines will try to answer the following question: How did this problem of school failure reach African and particularly the Ivory Coast?

2.1.1 From the Creation of the First School in the Ivory Coast and School Failure

At this stage of our historical location of the problem of school failure in Africa and particularly in the Ivory Coast, we will question one of the best African historians: Professor Ki-Zerbo. According to Ki-Zerbo (1978), the second half of the nineteenth century experienced industrial revolution in Europe, with the invention of the steam engine. This industrial revolution puts Europe in a situation of urgent needs of huge quantities of raw materials.

This time, it will not be enough to import labor in Europe to create new plantations. Not only were they in need of more lands, but, they were also in need of a huge market: the African continent! Their solution was very clear. A change in the relationship between Europe and Africa will be necessary. What to do to get the labor, the land and the market?

The answer was very simple, still according to professor Ki-Zerbo(1978). Europeans just needed to find a strategy that would enable them to exploit legally, the lands, the labor and the market and their strategy was the following: Africa must be colonized!

The means to get to their aim were there already! Still according to Ki-Zerbo(1978) those means were their military power, and religious missionaries with two symbols: the bible for persuasion and the gun, for the event in which persuasion fails and power is needed.

Thus, from 15 November1884 to 26 February 1885, according to Ki-Zerbo, ‘’Africa was officially, legally, and shamelessly’’ shared in Berlin, during a conference called “the Berlin Conference”! The Ivory Coast became a French colony in 1893. The three Ms of professor (Ki-Zerbo, 1978) were equally active! They were mi ssionaries, m erchants and m ilitaries.

The official role devoted to missionaries was to evangelize, but they will devote more time to their education role: teaching the population how to read, write and calculate in order to facilitate communication between Africans and their European masters!

Thus, the first school in the Ivory Coast was created at Elima, in the south, in the region of Aboisso. The premises were constructed by Mrs Keller, the wife of the manager of Arthur Verdier’s plantations. That was in 1886. Mrs Keller found teaching too difficult for her and she gave up. Facing this failure, the French government appointed Mr Jeand’heur, first primary school teacher of Ivory Coast on 12 February, 1887( Ivoire education, Juin 1995).

One cannot talk of school failure where school does not exist. We now know how school came into existence in the Ivory Coast. Many other schools were built throughout the country and they trained most of the staff of merchants, militaries and missionaries according to the mission assigned to missionaries.

Unlike France, the 1960s, and the 1970s nobody was talking of school failure as a social problem in Ivory Coast. The Ivorian government was rather anxious face to the relative high rate of success of baccalaureat candidates, because the only university of the country started to be overcrowded and L’Ecole Normale Superieure d’Abidjan, the only secondary school teachers’ training college was about to reach its teacher training objectives assigned by the government.

Besides, since 1979, the prices of the Ivorian main export products (coffee and cocoa) were experiencing a drastic decrease on the international market. This resulted in a severe economic crisis, locally called conjuncture at the time, and creating new universities was out of question.

Ignoring how to welcome those undesired great number of baccalaureat holders, the government had two solutions; reduce the numbers of baccalaureat bearers, or deny the government’s obligation to ensure the education of every citizen. The government could not make the second option. Therefore, they invented a way to reduce the number of new baccalaureat holders by introducing an examination called probatoire, in 1980. This policy was the creation of artificial mass school failure.

Every high school pupil was obliged to pass his probatoire first, before being entitled to sit for the baccalaureat itself and this policy really reduced the number of new students. That was the origin of the first step of school failure in secondary schools.

Nobody can stop progress, so under popular pressure, the probatoire was officially canceled the same way it was suddenly introduced and this was for us the origin of academic failure and it was in 1985. At that period the welcoming capability of the University of Cocody had tripled! That was the origin of academic failure!

The long economic crisis of the 1980s which lead to students’ uprising of 1990 against the regime of Houphouet Boigny, the death of Houphouet in 1993, the military coup against the regime of Henry Konan Bedie in 1999, and the politico-military crisis of 2002 are factors that really favored an environment in which the existing academic failure really increased! From 2002 to now, this problem is still increasing, but nobody seems to have time to study it seriously!

After locating this crucial failure problem historically, and before we can go through the theories, it is important to view what we think failure really is. Do we all understand school failure the same way? How is it defined by specialists of Education?

2.1.2 What do we mean by Failure?

We find it good to start this literature review by a definition borrowed from ( Bastin and Rosen, 1990) who clearly stated that failure in school should not be seen only as learners’ incapacity to pass their exams. Failure is also the incapacity of teachers, or the school to propose the right sort of knowledge that can meet learners’ needs.

The notion of school failure implies both the learner and the teacher or the institution of Education. In clearer terms, to identify the causes of school failure, one must only look at the side of the learner, but also at that of the teacher.

In the light of this definition, it is clear that if an institution of higher education like the UFR/SEG chooses a program for his students and the majority of them cannot pass the proposed exams, students will be accused for their failure, but the institution as a whole, meaning teachers as well must also be accused.

This also means that if an institution of education trains students who cannot find a suitable place in the society in which they live, that institution must question itself and if learners deserve to be accused for laziness, teachers should also be accused as well.

Another idea developed by the above authors is that, even if learners leave school after passing all their exams, but if they cannot find a place in the society in which they live, we can still talk of school or academic failure.

This second idea insists on the double responsibility of teachers and by extension schools. Schools have the responsibility to have their students learn and they must also bear the responsibility of what they propose to their students. Curriculum contents must be interesting enough for learners to accept to learn freely and to help learners find an employment after leaving school.

As for the Ivorian Aka Adou (2001), school failure can be defined as learners’ temporary or permanent inability to undertake a learning project and complete it according to his initial plan.

For Kanvally Fadiga(1997), school failure is a low internal capacity of a given education system whose effects are high rates of school year repetitions and dropouts. For him, school failure is also a low external capacity of the education system whose effects are training-job inadequacy.

An inventor fails 999 times, and if he succeeds once, he's in. He treats his failures simply as practice shots”. Charles F. Kettering

In the light of what the above famous researchers have written so far, school failure or academic failure bears two aspects: the temporary or permanent incapability to complete a learning project, and the inability to find a suitable job after leaving school.

This being said, the best way to solve a problem is to attack its roots. In our present context, we need to attack the origin of school failure and doing so first means that we need to identify its origin!

School failure finds its origin in a learning environment which fails to take learners’ present and future learning needs into account . For example, learning everything requests the same way or strategy used when we were learning our mother tongue some years back, when we were children! At that time who forced us to learn? Who gave us any home work or any exercises to do?

I guess you will reply “nobody”! You are right. Nobody even paid attention to us when we were learning our first language. In a classroom, this lack of attention from people surrounding us would probably be a source of disappointment and would affect our learning process. Why this?

A classroom is not always the ideal learning environment! A classroom does not always convince learners of their learning needs. In a classroom, learners are asked to do things, to perform and learners do not always understand the reasons and the importance of the tasks they are asked to perform .

In the case of a child learning his mother tongue, he naturally decided to learn. He learns naturally, in his own way and at his own pace. He listens and repeats what he thinks he has heard. Even if nobody pays attention to him in order to congratulate him, nobody chocks him either with any negative appreciation.

The child in this case learns naturally, freely, and at his own speed. Nobody teaches him, neither the vocabulary, nor the grammar. He just learns naturally! That is why Chomsky talks of natural acquisition.

The baby proceeds by repetitions that are sometimes far from the reality (failing several times), but with time and his natural motivation to imitate adults, he gets first, audible sounds and finally he gets the correct pronouncing, exactly the way the quoted inventor proceeded! Progressively he widens his vocabulary and he improves his grammar. In the end he becomes a competent user of his mother tongue! This is the ideal way to learn. Nobody neither asked the baby to learn, nor forced him to learn. It was its own initiative. That is why we all succeeded 100% in learning our first language.

As we can see from this example of the learning process of our mother tongue, a process in which each of us went through, learning requests a natural environment and a personal motivation to learn. Teachers’ role should be to create such an environment and such a motivation for their learners. This is not an easy task, but teachers must bear in mind that their classroom must be as natural as possible, it must be an environment in which motivation and personal initiatives prevail!

Though the above example concerns a young baby, it relies on what Malcolm Knowles calls the ingredients of Andragogy and which are: self-concept, experience, readiness, self-orientation, and self-motivation (Malcolm Knowles, 1970).

The repetition of the term self (self-concept, self-orientation, and self-motivation) means that for Andragogy, the new and future learning trend, learners must be entrusted the entire responsibility of their learning and we would add no matter the learner’s age! Prior experience is not absolutely necessary as long as one is ready and willing to learn! The needed experience is acquired after some few tries.

We would also like to call our attention on another fact. In class, teach a lesson on the history of France to African students. At the end of your lesson, check how many of them have memorized the lesson.

Few of them will be able to prove that they have memorized this history lesson. The majority of them will probably succeed later, but not without difficulties. After class, let us assume that the same boys and girls are spending some good time at the sea side. Tell them a much longer African fairy tale.

Because they are not in a classroom, which limits their freedom, because the fairy tale was not perceived as a school subject, because if they memorize the fairy tale, they will look like heroes when the opportunity is offered to them to tell a story, motivation to memorize the tale is there, most of them will be able to repeat that fairy tale.

The failure to learn occurs more frequently in an environment in which much attention is not given to personal initiatives and motivation. Teachers must always bear this in mind and make of their classrooms, a place where students feel at ease, motivated to learn, and free to take personal initiatives.


The above definitions of school failure tend to point a finger to the school and accuse it for not being able to propose a curriculum suitable to learners’ needs, for not creating an environment in which the learning process is performed naturally, freely, and in which much room should be given to personal initiatives. Is school the only cause of students’ failure? Are the classroom and its constraints the only causes of students’ failure? Are there no other external causes to the problem of school failure? What is the point of view of Sociology of Education on this failure problem?

2.1.3 School Failure and the point of View of Sociology of Education:

It is widely accepted that teachers and schools in general play a role in learners’ failure, but current research in Sociology of Education has identified other causes of school failure. Two main theories deriving from two schools exist. They are: first, externalist theories and second, conflictualist theories.

2.1.4 Externalist Theories :

The term “externalist theories’” refers to any causes of failure that are external to school or the Education system. There are two main externalist theories; the first one is based on the principle of what John Ogbu (1974) called cultural deprivations. The second external theory is the one that analyses the learner’s individual way or manner used in his learning process. We will call this Methodological Individualism.

2.1.5 Cultural Deprivations:

For John Ogbu, this American researcher of Nigerian origin, who died on August 20, 2003, there is a minimum of culture, that is to say things, or knowledge that every one should have or learn in his family environment, or in the society in which he lives before going to school. By cultural deprivation, Ogbu means whatever is necessary to the learners’ success, but which, unfortunately, some learners do not have. This basic knowledge that is missing can be cultural, linguistic and material, and should not be considered as the fault of school.

Unfortunately, this minimum culture, useful for the learner’s success, is not sometimes acquired by some learners from poor social classes. This missing minimum culture is most of the time a cause of failure in school for those that he called “castle-like minorities”(John Ogbu,1978).

This minimum culture, cause of success for those who have it and cause of failure for those who do not have it, can simply be the lack of mastery of the language of instruction in school. In the environment in which his researches were mostly conducted, and which is the environment of the Californian poor and black minorities, many children actually experienced a failure for this reason.

His researches revealed that the environment of “castle like minorities” has a very negative impact on learners’ motivation and their ability to learn. For example how can you imagine, that children from this poor environment can refuse to learn for the simple reason that they do not want the members of their social class to think that they are doing well in order to look like white people, we mean rich people (John Ogbu, 1986)

For John Ogbu, (1992), cultural deprivation cannot only have negative impacts on learners’ performance in school. They can also have negative impacts on the economic plan as well.

If we stop at the findings of John Ogbu, Bourdieu and Passeron, Bourdelot and Establet, we will give the impression that the learner has no responsibility in his own learning process. If he fails it is because the education system has created the conditions of his failure. If it is not the school that created the conditions of his failure, it is his family environment or the whole society. But what is the exact role that the learner plays in his own learning process? Should the others; the school, the Education system, the society in which learners live, their families, bear the entire responsibility of learners’ failure? The next subchapter will try to answer those questions.

2.1.6 Methodological Individualism :

This theory states the school failure cannot be explained beyond the main learning actress; the learner. This implies that the learner’s learning needs have to be identified and taken into consideration.

Failure here is not seen as the consequence of the importation of social inequalities into school, but as a certain number of facts, habits, behavior, choices made by the learner or his family and which did not work during his learning process and which can explain his failure.

R. Bourdon,(1993) suggests that, to identify the causes of failure, one should take into account learners’ freedom to make educational choices that can have a positive or negative impact on his learning. Learners’ parents as well have this freedom of choice that can influence positively or negatively the results of their children in the process of their evaluation.

For example, a student who wants to register at the university for medical studies is about to make an important decision for his life. He will surely discuss this project with his parents who will certainly give to their son or daughter’s decision the deep thought that such a project deserves. They have the total freedom to choose another subject or school. If upon all this freedom, they choose medical studies and their son or daughter fails, they should not accuse school or the education system only. The learner and his family have the entire responsibility of the success or failure that will happen.

Learners are the real causes of their failure even if it is admitted that failure has a link with social inequalities. School or education systems cannot bear alone this responsibility of learners’ failure. This is so real that, Bernard Charot, former defender of the theory according to which Education systems reproduce social inequalities in school, later admitted that many researchers have exaggerated in their way of rejecting the whole responsibility of students’ failure on school. He was the one who introduced a link between what he calls “le rapport au savoir” which is founded on the principles of anthropology.

2.1.7 Conflictualist Theory:

This theory is based on cultural conflicts opposing school environment and family environment. There is a cultural conflict when the family culture does not match the culture decided and admitted by the education system, and when this is a source of failure.

The leaders of this theory are Bourdieu and Passeron and Bordelot and Establet. Conflictualists assume that schools or Education systems develop social inequalities, therefore, they are responsible for students’ failures. Why and how?

The answer to these questions will come from Bourdieu and Passeron, (1970) who assert that internal inequalities observed in our schools or Education systems are explained by the fact that they(schools and Education systems) put together children of different social classes and in so doing they intentionally introduce in school the existing social differences into scholar or academic differences.

Indeed, the responsibility of the education system in this injustice lies in the fact, that the standard chosen by the education system is the one that is near and available to the class of rich people. Therefore children from this class have less effort to make during their stay in the education system than those from the poor social class.

To make this point of view clearer, we will take the example of two children from two totally different social classes. One of the two children comes from an African village where he was living with his parents who have never been to school and who do not know how to read and write. At home, they speak only the local mother tongue. This boy cannot speak English/French and relies on the school only to learn this language.

As for the second boy, the one coming from the rich family, father and mother are university graduates. Their child was born in an environment where every one speaks English/French. He too speaks that language very well, but ignores totally his native mother tongue.

We must notice that each of them ignores totally one language. The child from the poor social class can speak his mother tongue, but ignores totally French or English, the language of instructions in school whereas the child from the rich social class has already a good command of the language of instruction but ignores his mother tongue.

Both of them have to be in the same class in an African town like Abidjan. The language of instruction chosen by the education system is English or French. The child from the poor social class has to make tremendous efforts to learn the language, where the child from the rich social condition has very little effort to make.

The child of the rich condition will have no difficulties in understanding the other school subjects because there are no linguistic obstacles for him or her to understand instructions given in English/French.

In this example we can see that the inequality observed in the society is simply repeated in school. It is indeed, this inequality that is described by the leaders of this conflictualist theory.

Baudelot and Estabet develop the same conflictualist theory through an analysis of the French education system in which, less gifted children are sent to technical schools where they are trained to be employees in factories, whereas more gifted children are sent to general secondary schools where they have access to universities and become high class leaders.

As seen above, in the example of the two children, low social class children have few opportunities to succeed, compared to high social class children. Consequently, offering the opportunity to more gifted children to attend universities seems fair apparently, but in reality, it is an injustice by the fact that poor social class children remain poor in the future, and rich social class children remain rich in the future. Is there a good lesson to take from these theories? How can they help us in our attempt to study students’ failure at the UFR of Economics and Management?

2.1.8 Lessons from the two theories :

The conflictualist theories enable us to understand that the learner does not bear alone the responsibility if his failure. School and the whole Education system also bear the responsibility of students’ failure.

Knowing this will guide us to explore the education system in use at the UFR/SEG we will call these internal causes of students’ failure.

After the examination of internal causes, we will also try to identify failure causes related to students themselves, before trying to analyze failure causes related to students’ families.

2.1.9 Bernard Charlot and the view of Anthropology:

The term “le rapport au savoir” of Bernard Charlot is based on the principle that school failure has a link with social inequalities, racial inequalities, cultural and linguistic inequalities but these inequalities should not bear alone and entirely the responsibility of learners’ school failures (Bernard Charlot, 1997)!

He gave a beautiful example that compares the two social classes; the rich class, and the poor class. He explained that it may be discovered that all the children who succeed in learning the craft of reading in one year have a bathroom at home. This is a fact and this fact is true, but we all agree that this fact alone cannot explain why these learners succeed. Consequently, it would be improper to conclude that the bathroom played a role in their success in the craft of reading. Bernard Charlot,(1999)

We all agree that taking one’s bath cannot help in reading. Thinking that social inequalities, cultural inequalities, racial and linguistic inequalities are the exclusive causes of school failure, exactly refers to saying that learners’ success in acquiring the craft of reading in one year was possible thanks to their bathrooms.

The same way, statistics reveal that the rate of school failure is higher in the environment of poor social class learners, but this real fact is not enough to assert that social, cultural, racial and linguistic inequalities are the only causes of their failure.

Learners, subjects of school failure are not ‘’social and cultural disables’’ according to Bernard Charlot! He shares John Obgu’s way of treating the different types of learners’ handicaps. He sometimes borrows Ogbu’s terms to be clearer. Sometimes he gives the impression to say the contrary of what he said earlier, but what we must memorize is that he wants to attract our attention on exaggerating interpretations on school failure that create a diversion of our attention on learners’ social class and culture instead of questioning the efficiency of our education methods, practices, the way teachers behave in front of these learners, etc..(Bernard Charlot, 2000).

For Charlot, if ‘social deprivations’ were enough to explain school failure, why and how is it that many learners from poor social classes do succeed in their studies? Are we returning to these old and easy explanations according to which those who succeed in school are gifted? Are we going to say that learners who fail are dunces or mentally deficient?

It seems obvious for Charlot that these kinds of explanations are not acceptable at the present advance of research. For him the theory of “du rapport au savoir” is the best way to treat the question of school failure.

In order to reduce the rate of failure, Charlot proposes several paths of solutions. We decided to present only three of them, those who seem useful for this piece of work.

The first one is an incentive for teachers to develop a positive reading of learners’ actions or behaviors. Every learner has positive and negative deeds, but the teacher must focus on positive ones and ignore negative actions.

Instead of insisting on learners’ negative deeds, teachers should try to understand why and how the learner got to such a situation. He has the duty to analyze his personal story, the true meaning of his deeds, in one word, how this learner functions, and this is the author’s second advice to teachers!

This analysis will help the teacher identify how he can involve the learner into his own learning process. This implies how to create or improve learners’ interests in their learning activities.

His third advice states that learners can learn for different reasons; to have a good mark, to have a better social condition, to please his teacher, or avoid a punishment, but whatever the reason to learn is, the teacher must be professional enough to identify the learner’s individual motivations to learn and use them to reach his objective; have learners learn!

Charlot, wants teachers to know that keeping a good relationship with learners is as motivating as the content of what they teach!

2.1.10 The Ivorian Contribution to the debate on School Failure :

By the term ‘Ivorian contribution’, we mean every research undertaken in the Ivory Coast on the theme of school failure. These contributions do not differ too much from what we have already presented, but they have the merits to be based on the African context, and particularly on the Ivorian context.

Four researchers participated in the debate on school failure in the Ivory Coast. They are Blaise Gbalou Otokore(1998), Aka Adou(2001), Bernabe Mobio and Toure Krouele(2002). They respectively studied the question of school failure under its aspect of school disorder in African Universities, in the Ivorian primary schools, and in the Ivorian secondary schools, with an emphasis on failure during the examination of philosophy.

Blaise Gbalou Otokore (1998) identified two main causes to school failure:

-low capacity of school
-the lack of follow up

By low capacity the author means, weaknesses and insufficiencies related to school as an institution, seen as school failure causes. By failure, Blaise Gbalou Otokore means first, the inability of students to pass their examinations and second, the impossibility for students to get a first employment.

The second cause, the one we called lack of follow up refers to students’ families, and in some extent, to the whole society. Family and society surrounding the learner cannot help the latter in acquiring the minimum knowledge or aptitude, which could help him succeed. That is the example of many African families in which illiteracy prevails.

For example, what can a mother do to help her daughter understand a lesson when she (the mother) has never been to school? One could reply that such a mother could pay the service of another person who can help her daughter! This is possible in some families, but many others of low income cannot afford it, and in many cases, this will cause a failure for many primary and secondary school learners.

As we can see, the question of school failure whose rate is higher in poor families as identified by John Ogbu in California also exists in Africa, and particularly in the Ivory Coast.

Without giving the impression to take a clear position in this debate, Bernabe Mobio (2002), this researcher born in the Ivory Coast, this psychologist who has been studying school failure for ten years now, shows scientifically, how God, or the nature established the rules governing the functions of human brain. These rules are, for the author, the same for all, rich or poor!

If it is true that being poor or rich, a human being needs air, water and food to live. The human brain needs air, water and food too to live, that is to say to function correctly. For Mobio, the food of the human brain consists of a certain number of vitamins. God or the nature that created us does not make any difference between rich and poor. If you want to live, you have to breath, eat and drink! In the same way, if you want your brain to function correctly, you have to provide it with all the vitamins!

In the light of this scientific truth, we can say that the difference between learners from poor families and learners from rich families lies on the fact that, some of them are able to feed their brain which functions correctly, whereas the others cannot feed their brain correctly, consequently, it cannot function to the maximum.

Low income families do not even think of vitamins. What is important for them is to find a way to stop their hunger. They are ready to eat anything provided the stomach is full. Many families in this category of people even ignore the existence of vitamins. We are referring to families in which father and mother are illiterate. They consume vitamins by chance.

Consequently the frequency and the quantity of absorbed vitamins are not enough for the good function of the brain. That is why the risk of vitamin deficiency is higher in the poor population than the rich one and this can explain why failure is higher in the milieu of poor families.

Another scientific fact is the importance of rest. Being poor in Africa implies living in a tiny place where the heat, mosquitoes, and the lack of privacy prevail. Africa is the continent of big heat. The average temperature is around 28 degrees Celsius at night and during the raining season! This temperature can reach 35 degrees in some places during the dry season!

With those temperatures, normally every family should be able to use a split or an air conditioner at any period of the year, but, the high cost of electricity bills cannot enable even medium class people to use their air conditioners.

As for poor families, they would not even think of air conditioners. They know that they would not be able to pay their electricity bill if they dare use the air conditioner. For this category of families, nights are real hells!

What every body can afford is the use of fans which do not help very much actually, because of the big heat. Consequently, poor families have less rest opportunities than the rich, because, the first category’s nights are disturbed by the heat and this disturbance is reinforced by the presence of mosquitoes.

Besides, some children from some poor backgrounds cannot always go to bed when they want. Many members of poor families have no personal room. They use the living room with many others as a bed room. They are allowed to sleep in the living room only when it is free, that is to say, when the other members of the family have finished their television programs.

Those who are the last to sleep are those who have to wake up early if they want to get to school on time. Consequently, the minimum rest period needed for the function of the brain is almost never respected, thus increasing their chance of failure.

Toure Krouele’s findings (2002), accuse teachers to be the causes of three factors favorable to learners’ failure in philosophy as a school subject. These factors are:

a)Teachers’ lack of motivation which is characterized by their frequent absence in class. Besides, even when some philosophy teachers are in class, learners notice the lack of correct preparation of the lesson. Some teachers repeat the same lessons every year.
b) Another factor is some philosophy teachers’ ignorance or incompetence in their subjected matter. Not only do they not master philosophy as a subject matter, but they are also ignorant in Pedagogy.
c) The third factor relating to teachers concerns their assessment system. Students find it too subjective if not arbitrary!

The survey conducted by Toure Krouele in teachers’ environment identified that learners’ mastery of the French language is very poor. Numerous vocabulary and grammar mistakes were noticed. This poor level of the French language could very well explain their failure in philosophy during their exam.

Aka Adou identifies three factors that explain school failure in African Universities. The first factor is what he calls “la condition africaine” , that is to say “the African condition” and which implies poverty and all those living conditions described above, lack of didactic materials, difficult working conditions for both teachers and learners, conditions that an American or international communities would never imagine that they exist on Earth!

To have an idea of some working conditions in some African universities, you just need to experience these conditions to believe. We need to note that these conditions are sometimes far from international standards.

The second factor he identified concerns, the conditions in which the teaching- learning process takes place. By this he means teaching contents which are not always adapted to the African context, but imported from European or American universities. This second factor also questions teaching methods used. Are all the teachers trained for their job? Do they have pedagogic capabilities? Are they aware of adult Education concepts?

The third factor is related to the learner himself and his new environment: the university! Indeed, when many learners reach the university level, they experience a sudden difference between the teaching method in high school, where teachers take their time to explain their lessons, make correct and progressive assessments… and what happens at the university where some teachers just read their lectures, or talk as in a conference, ignoring that students need to take notes. No mention is made of important parts of the lecture. This sudden breakdown is a source of serious difficulties for students to adapt to their new environment and is another source of failure.


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An Examination of Students Failure Problem at the UFR/SEG of the University of Cocody
( Atlantic International University )  (The School of Human and Social Studies)
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All my assignments and the present thesis entitled me to the Grade:"Doctor of Education,Cum Laude Honors"
examination, students, failure, problem, ufr/seg, university, cocody
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Assoa Ettien (Author), 2010, An Examination of Students Failure Problem at the UFR/SEG of the University of Cocody, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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