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High School Dropout Problems in Bangladesh

The secondary level of education in Bangladesh is particularly plagued by dropout problem. The severity of the dropout issue prompted the Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics (BANBEIS) to carry out an in-depth study in 2002. As reported in the leading national newspaper, The Daily Star, the study revealed, “dropout rates at secondary and higher secondary levels of education remain alarmingly high despite government efforts to reduce the rates. over 80 percent (of) high school students quit schools without having their secondary school certificates (SSC) while 36.52 percent (of) intermediate
college level students dropped out without having their higher secondary certificates (HSC)in 2005.” It is doubtful that the dropout rate fell to any significant degree between 2005 to 2008, because the same study found that “the total dropout rate at the secondary level was 80.02 percent compared to 83.21 percent in 2004 and 83.43 percent in 2003…”. Female students have a higher dropout rate than male students—in 2005, 83.29 percent female students dropped out of high school as opposed to 76.54 percent male students.

The dropout rates relating to high schools cover Classes VI through X, which includes taking the nationwide SSC examination and passing that exam. But when one looks at the number of students taking the SSC examination and compares that number with the number of students who complete studies at Class X and register for the SSC examination, a special problem is noticed. As reported in The Daily Star, “ Over 42 percent of registered candidates for SSC and equivalent certificates dropped out this year (2009) even before the examination begins begin tomorrow, due to a plethora of social and financial obstacles”. Here also, there was a big differential between female students and male students--- 47 percent dropout rate for female students as opposed to 37 percent for male students.

Investigating the causes of such high dropout rates, analysts identify a number of factors. Obviously, poverty is the main reason for high dropout rates in high school, especially in rural areas of Bangladesh. Poor families in rural Bangladesh cannot afford school tuition let alone pay for a private tutor. But for supplementing low quality classroom education and achieving success, private tutoring or coaching has become a necessity in the system that has developed in Bangladesh over the years. Moreover, most poor parents in rural areas are compelled to sacrifice education and choose work over school for their children to supplement the meager family income that is insufficient for the maintenance of the family. Poorer families also tend to need more involvement of their children in household chores.

The impact of poverty on school dropout in secondary education in Bangladesh is further corroborated by certain related statistics. It is a fact that within the overall poverty situation in Bangladesh, a distinction can be made between poor and non-poor households, not unlike in most developing countries. One study, inter alia, compared the net enrolment rate in secondary school of children from non-poor households and poor households. It found that children from non poor households were twice as likely to be enrolled in secondary school as their poor counterparts. The net enrolment rate can be taken as an indirect measure of the dropout rate--- the higher the dropout rate, the lower the net enrolment rate vice versa. In the case of female students, the dropout rate is significantly higher since poor parents customarily arrange for their early marriage. Besides poverty and early marriage, analysts have identified a few additional factors. For example, according to one expert, “the age-old fear of learning and using English, using counterfeit registration, moving to the city or abroad for work or studies, involvement in politics and income cases students’ apathy are also some of the reasons cited for the huge dropouts”. In some cases dropout has been associated with specific behaviors, family characteristics and social environments are also mentioned. In some cases dropout has been associated with specific behavioral problems such as drug abuse. Another recurrent cause of dropping out is persistently low academic achievement. It can be noted that although the reasons for dropout fall under various categories, they are usually interrelated.