Skipping Classes to Make Passes: Do Truants Play Better Football?

Argentina has an outstanding football team, boasting two World Cup titles and some of the most admired players in history. Argentina also has an outstanding number of truants  (i.e. students who skip classes). Before taking their PISA tests, almost three in five students said that they had skipped a day (or even more) of school during the prior two weeks. Argentina has more truants than any of the other 22 World Cup PISA countries!

Is that why Argentina’s footballers are so good? Does skipping classes help improve football passes?

Skipping classes to make passes

Based on World Cup results so far, I don’t think so! The blue line in the graph shows that, on average:

  • Teams that have already reached the quarter finals have more students attending all classes than the teams they beat in Round 2. For example, Colombia (only 4.4% of students skip school days) beat Uruguay (23.6%)
  • Teams that lost in Round 2, in turn, do better than the teams they eliminated in the group stages. Chile (7.7%), for example, does better than Australia (31.8%).

My hypothesis: in good footballing countries, students enjoy going to school because they have better physical education teachers! PISA tells us that parents and schools can work together to improve the engagement of students with school. And good relationships with teachers are known to reduce truancy.

What do you think?

Of course, this evening’s results could challenge my hypothesis. If Argentina and the USA both win their games (scenario 1 in the graph), they will drag down the average of their fellow quarter finalists.

Their opponents, Switzerland and Belgium, have very low rates of truancy – only 5-6 per cent of students there say that they skip school days. And PISA tells us that higher rates of truancy are linked with much lower test scores.

So, if Belgium and Switzerland win (scenario 2), they would show the world that classes and passes go hand in hand.

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