Dropout: Take pragmatic steps to keep students in school

The information that 41 per cent of students from 5 to 24 years of age remain outside of educational activities in the country is very alarming, especially when the government is planning a revolutionary change in the education sector through a new curriculum.

The total population of that age group in the country is 63.7 million. Of them 59.28 per cent are in education, says a survey report of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics.

It was said in a discussion titled ‘Challenges for education of out-of-school children: Where is the solution’, organised by Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE), that about 14 per cent of the students enrolled in primary school dropout before completing their education. The rate increases to 36 per cent in secondary school. Then there is the college and university level. This suggests that nearly 50 per cent of the students are not able to cross the primary and secondary school levels.

This means, the government’s claim of enrolling nearly 100 per cent children at schools turns out to be a tall talk.

The government policymakers claim that the education rate is on the rise. But the activities of non-formal education that was introduced to bring back hundreds of thousands of children, who were dropping out at the primary, secondary or higher education levels, is now largely at a stalemate.

Poverty is the main reason for students dropping out of schools. No matter how much enrollment at school is increased, dropout cannot be prevented unless the relevant families are helped to get out of the vicious cycle of poverty.

Distributing textbooks free of cost is a good initiative of the government but just distributing textbooks freely won’t keep students in school. The financial and social conditions of the students dropping out must also be overcome.

Parents of poor families employ their children at work since they are unable to support the family with their own income. In that case, the government should extend its help. It can be in the form of providing food or financially.

Lunches were provided at schools on an experimental basis. That programme should be resumed at a larger scale. The families that employ their children at work could be given a little financial assistance or education loan.

Besides, non-formal education should be introduced for working students so that they can continue their studies alongside working. CAMPE has asked for “school mapping” to determine the area-wise number of schools in the country.

If there is no nearby school in an area, alternative arrangements have to be made. Pragmatic steps should be taken to provide necessary education to the large number of out-of-school and drop-out students through some institutions.

Above all, the allocation to education must be raised to bring all children to school and eliminate dropouts. Unfortunately Bangladesh has the lowest allocation rate in education in comparison to the gross domestic product (GDP) in South Asia. At the same time, it will not be enough to increase the allocation; rather the local people should also be involved to monitor whether the money is being spent properly or not. Bureaucracy-based supervision is largely insufficient.

It is not possible to make a developed and prosperous Bangladesh that the government is talking about by keeping a large number of children and adolescents out of the educational institutions.