Dropouts more among boy students during Covid

Launch of report on the 'National Survey on Children's Education in Bangladesh 2022'Prothom Alo

During the prevalence of Covid, boy students dropped out from the primary and higher secondary level of education more than girls. Before the Covid outbreak, a student studied six hours a day on average, including time at school, home and coaching classes. When educational institutions closed during the Covid pandemic, this fell to two hours.

These findings appeared in the 'National Survey on Children's Education in Bangladesh 2021'. The survey report was launched on Thursday at the head office of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) head office in Agargaon of the capital. However, it was not mentioned at the event that during Covid times, the dropout rate of boys was higher than that of girls.

The survey was jointly conducted by BBS and the United Nations Children' Fund - UNICEF. UNICEF is providing the government with technical assistance for learning recovery and acceleration including innovative remedial education. The survey was conducted on 9000 households. This household-based survey highlighted various data on the state of education.

Discussants at the event said that the survey will help in understanding the impact of extended closure of schools on children's attendance, remaining out of school, dropouts, harm to learning and other fallouts of education. It will also assist the government in taking measures to improve the standard of education.

BBS director (demography and health wing) Md Masud Alam presented a summary of the survey. He said that educational institutions had remained closed for 18 months from March 2020. The survey was run from 21 December 2021 to 10 January last year following international survey methodology and questionnaires. The state of children's education was highlighted, using the Bangladesh Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) of 2019, the largest survey in the country on the state of children. A total of 26 BBS teams visited households directly with the questions to collect the required data. 

Launch of report on the 'National Survey on Children's Education in Bangladesh 2022'
Prothom Alo

During the open floor session of the event, several speakers pointed out that the survey did not include the reasons for girls and boys dropping out of the educational institutions, the rate of child marriage and so on.

After the conclusion of the event, BBS director Md Masud Alam told Prothom Alo that actually the basic objective of the survey was to highlight the state of education during Covid times. That is why it does not give details on the reasons behind these matters.

Secretary of the statistics and information management division, Shahnaz Arefin, speaking at the event, said that if UNICEF, BBS and other relevant departments of the government collaborated to prepare a report on the overall state of education during Covid, that would be helpful in formulating polices and future planning.

BBS director general Md Matiar Rahman said that the information brought forward in the BBS survey highlights issues for discussion and that is why at today's event everyone wants to know why boys dropped out more or the reasons behind the state of child marriage. He said, it is not enough for BBS to come up with facts and figures only. The time for research has come. Changes in survey methodology must be brought about. For the sake of future research, proposals have been submitted to the government to increase the wings in BBS, to recruit skilled workforce and bring about changes in the organogram.

Director general of the primary education directorate, Shah Rezwan Hayat, said the government has taken various measures to reduce the learning gaps caused by corona. Also, it was not only during corona times that students dropped out, Before and after corona too, students dropped out. There were many reasons, including economic ones, behind this. The government is implementing a Tk 380 billion (Tk 38,000 crore) programme to ensure quality education. The government has recruited 37,000 new teachers. A total of 600,000 teachers of government and non-government educational institutions, are being provided various training.

Shah Rezwan Hayat went on to say that during the prevalence of corona, many students were admitted to madrasas. There are many madrasas running in the country under the name of 'pre-cadet' institutions. The government is working not to obstruct anyone, but to bring education under one framework.

Present at the event were UNICEF's social policy, analytics and research head Stanley Gwavua, BBS deputy director general Kazi Nurul Islam, joint secretary of the statistics and information management division, Dipankar Roy and others.

According to the survey, at the higher secondary level (Class 9 to 11), the dropout rate in 2019 had been 9.7 per cent. In 2021 that became 7.1 per cent. In 2019, the dropout rate among boys was 7.9 per cent. In 2021 thus was 6.4 per cent. In the case or girls, the dropout rate in 2019 was 11.7 per cent and in 2021 it was 7.8 per cent. at the lower secondary level, in 2019 the boys' dropout rate was 3.5 per cent and in 2021 it was 5.7 per cent. For girls, in 2019 the dropout rate was 4.2 per cent and in 2021 it was 4.5 per cent. At the primary level too, compared to 2019, the dropout rate of boys was higher than that of girls in 2021.

The survey also revealed the impact of discrimination in children using digital media for studies during Covid. It pointed out that while school was closed during the Covid period, less than one child among five (18.7 per cent) studied online or through the distant learning method. Compared to children in urban areas (28.7 per cent), less children in rural areas (15.9 per cent) took part in online classes. That indicates that the children at the marginalised level, who had limited scope to access internet or television and lacked computers or smartphones at home, faced more losses in learning. The youngest children were impacted the most. The rate of participation in distant classes was lower among primary school children (13.1 per cent) compared to children at a secondary level (lower secondary 2-.3 per cent and higher secondary 23.7 per cent).

According to the survey, attendance during Covid at the primary, secondary and higher secondary level had been 80.5 per cent, 59.6 per cent and 50.5 per cent.