oa Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology - What did you learn in school today?

Special issue 1
  • ISSN : 1445-7377



This article conveys some of the findings from a hermeneutic-phenomenological study on lived experiences of school failure. The informants were students in Swedish senior high schools and teenagers in Swedish juvenile institutions. Contrary to the common belief that school failure is related to low grades or failing exams, the students' descriptions of lived experiences of failure had little to do with intellectual shortcomings. The students' interpretation of my research question did not encompass cognitive deficiencies. They rarely spoke of failure to understand, or failure to meet scholastic demands. Instead, the students offered stories about failure to behave according to expectations and the way in which they experienced their teachers' reactions to this 'deviant' behaviour. Thus, the question of school failure did not revolve around the students' cognitive knowledge and proficiency - or lack of thereof - but around the hidden curriculum. The feelings the students lived through while experiencing failure included lack of trust, confidence, belief, joyfulness, patience, hope, and serenity. The study has moral implications for pedagogical practice and the formative relationship between teachers and students.

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