Academic failure depends on the evaluation system applied by an educator, and the criteria are thus subjective. The level of a failing student is however generally characterized by a difficulty to follow lessons at the same pace as others and by low marks.
Academic failure, which primarily affects pupils from vulnerable groups, takes a variety of forms but stem mainly, according to the pupils themselves, from disaffection with what they consider to be pointless and unnecessary knowledge and culture transmitted by schools. Conversely, their vision of the world as “poor” people or minorities, their language, their migrant culture and their artistic practices are all ignored or regarded as matters to be kept apart from the “real” content of secondary education. Moreover, secondary education does not readily hand over its keys, leaves many of the skills needed for success unmentioned, inexplicit, since they are assumed to have been acquired elsewhere (UNESCO, 2006: 29).