COUNSELLORS and social workers yesterday called for a quick approach to render assistance to dropouts after a survey found that the process of dropping out of school was cumulative. The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups' survey on ''School Dropouts and Truants'', released yesterday, found that the process of dropping out could last anywhere from six months to two years before the students really quit. Of the 155 dropouts in the 1992-93 year interviewed, 70 per cent said they had been playing truant and the school had interviewed their parents many times several months before they dropped out of schools. The survey also showed that most dropouts were poor academic performers. ''The combination of a deprived background and personal adjustment problems during adolescence, for which students lack proper guidance from parents and teachers, triggered off truancy which eventually led to dropping out of school altogether,'' said thefederation. The federation, chaired by Executive Councillor Rosanna Wong Yick-ming, suggested a quick approach to help dropouts. ''If a student plays truant for more than two days, the counselling teacher and school social worker should be called upon to follow the case. ''Difficult cases can be referred to the Non-attendance Cases Team of the Education Department,'' the federation suggested. The federation said the existing procedure failed to respond quickly to dropouts. A majority of cases were not contacted by the Education Department until three weeks after non-attendance. Under the present procedure, schools are only required to report non-attendance to the department, but not prior symptoms of potential dropouts like truancy. Figures showed that in the past three years, over 17,000 children from Forms One to Three had been reported by their schools to the Education Department as suspected dropouts, and of these, 8,046 were confirmed. Social workers are worried that prolonged absence from school would expose students to triad influences and increase their chances of becoming a delinquent. The survey also found that most students dropped out of school at the age of 14, or in Forms One and Two. Most of their parents received only primary education, and some 20 per cent came from single-parent or broken families. Over 70 per cent of respondents said they had violated school regulations before dropping out. The most common ones were truancy, fighting, creating a disturbance in class, being late for school, smoking and being disrespectful towards teachers.