School burnout can be turned into engagement


One fourth of all young people experience a form of school engagement on a weekly basis. Vocational students experience engagement to a greater degree than upper secondary school students; upper secondary students have a rate of about 20 per cent, while the corresponding rate for vocational students was as much as one third. Girls are more enthusiastic about school than boys. These findings were made in the study led by Professor Katariina Salmela-Aro, which is part of the Academy of Finland Research Programme on the Health and Welfare of Children and Young People (SKIDI-KIDS). 

Salmela-Aro and her team have developed a reliable and quick method (the EDA inventory) for the independent assessment of schoolwork engagement. Engagement comprises energy, dedication and absorption as related to schoolwork.

School burnout is becoming, however, increasingly common. School burnout is characterised by exhaustion, cynicism toward the meaning of school, and a sense of inadequacy at school. Philip Parker of the Max-Planck Institute and Salmela-Aro are the first worldwide to have studied the school burnout processes. The results of the FinEdu longitudinal study indicate that both prolonged exhaustion caused by schoolwork and cynicism toward school inevitably lead to an increased sense of inadequacy.

“It’s crucial that the school respond to the needs of our youth, since inadequacy can lead to depression. The results have also shown that students who have reading and writing difficulties often experience a sense of inadequacy, which, if prolonged, leads to depression. At the group level, the studies also indicate that the trend was to gradually avoid and segregate the groups of burned out students,” explains Salmela-Aro.

Professor Salmela-Aro proposes ways in which to change burnout to engagement:
Study guidance should be provided on all educational levels.

  • Resources and strengths should be emphasised.
  • Study skills should be taught on all educational levels.
  • The competence, coping facilities and motivation of the youth, parents and teachers should be nurtured.
  • The sense of community should be cultivated.

More information:

Professor Katariina Salmela-Aro, University of Helsinki, Finland, tel. +358 9 191 23255, +358 50 415 5283 or +358 50 311 2489, katariina.salmela-aro(at)


Academy of Finland Communications
Communications Specialist Leena Vähäkylä
tel. +358 9 7748 8327

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