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14 September, 2017 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 14 September, 2017 12:47:19 AM
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In and Out of School

Sheikh Iraj
In and Out of School

Over the years, the government and other organisations have been working hard to improve education in Bangladesh. Since 1990, primary education has been made compulsory for children aged 6 to 10. Primary education is free from classes 1 to 5, and there is a plan to extend it up to class 8. The government offers incentives like stipends and free food to encourage parents to send their children to school. However, not every child manages to complete his or her primary education in this country.

According to UNICEF, Bangladesh has made significant progress in recent years to increase primary school enrollment rates, covering 89 percent of boys and 94 percent of girls. Dropout rates at primary level are decreasing slowly. For example, in 2006 the proportion of students reaching class 5 was 63.6 percent, in 2009 that figure increased to 79.8 percent. However, dropout rates at secondary level are still significant, with only 50 percent of those who enrolled in class 1 staying up to class 10.

Ahead of National Education Day on September 17, this week Y&I spoke to some students, parents, teachers, government officials and a few non-government organisations to find out why children are still dropping out and what can be done to retain them in school.    

Mosharof  Hossain, aged 11, is a school dropout who has been working at a makeshift eatery in Tejgaon industrial area of the capital for the past one month. When asked why he was working instead of going to school, he only had a smile to offer in response. The owner of the restaurant informed this reporter that the boy, who is known by his nickname Joy, was brought to Dhaka by his elder brother. Joy said he studied until class five and he liked going to school, but he had to dropout apparently to help his family.

Sheikh M Alamgir Hossain, a specialist in statistics at BANBEIS (Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics) told Y&I: “The dropout rate at the primary level is 19.20 percent, according to a report of the Directorate of Primary Education. We mostly survey secondary-level education, which is from classes 6 to 10.  At secondary level, the dropout rate is 38.30 percent. The positive thing is that dropout rates are decreasing. The dropout rate for girls at secondary level is 42.19 percent, while it is 33.88 percent for boys. We will be able to solve this through creating social awareness.”

“There are 602 primary schools in our country that have upgraded from class 5 to class 8. Throughout the country, there are 126,615 public and private primary schools. Our surveys or indicators are followed by UNICEF and UNESCO. So, our data should not be that different to theirs. However, UNICEF recognises secondary education from classes 6 to 12, whereas our government considers it from classes 6 to 10. Since the UN agency is adding two more classes, there could be a little difference in their data,” added Hossain.  

Faruk Ikbal, a parent, told this reporter: “We have two children. My daughter studies in class 4 and my son is in nursery school. I run a boutique and many times I have come across situations where children, who are 10 to 12 years old, have come to me looking for work. I want to see them study, too, as my children do. Nevertheless, the reality is that there are many children who are forced by their families to dropout from school. I always encourage my staff to educate their children.”

M Islam, a father of two, works at a clothing store in Mirpur. He had to stop his daughter from going to school when she was in class 9. “We had no other option but to stop her from going to school and marry her off as some boys were harassing her. We are a low-income family and at times, we have to face situations where we can do nothing but follow a hard path. We had to do it because nobody listened to our problems. My daughter was a good student. My son studies in college,” Islam said.

The Primary Education (Compulsory) Act, 1990 stipulates that if parents or guardians fail three times in a row to send their children to school, then they can be punished with a fine of up to Tk 200. However, the law is hardly implemented.

Mohiuddin Ahmed Talukder, Deputy Director, deputy director (pre-primary cell) of the Directorate of Primary Education, said: “In 1990, the law making primary education compulsory was introduced and by 1992, it was implemented throughout the country. The law says if the parents do not send their children to school, then they would be fined, but that provision is never really implemented.”

“According to our national study, the dropout rate at primary level is 19.2 percent. Every year, we receive this data from APSR (Asian Primary Survey Report). The dropout rate is higher among students of classes 3 to 5. Poverty and child labour are some of the main reasons behind this. Since last year, we have opened complaint boxes in every primary school of the country. The good news is that we are getting feedback from this. We are getting reports of complaints and that is a positive thing. Most of the time, the complaints are solved locally. But if they are more complicated, then those are sent to us. Today, no teacher can physically or mentally punish or harass any student, it’s against the law and people know this. Every month, we arrange a seminar where mothers come and check on their children’s educational progress. We inspire them to give more importance to their children’s education. We also have programmes where our teachers visit students’ houses and talk to their family members. We have a target for zero percent dropout rate by 2022,” added Talukder.  

Regarding dropout of girls from school, Monotosh Kumar, assistant headmaster of Monipur High School and College, believes the main reason is a sense of lack of security among the parents. “I have been teaching for 20 years and I have come across many students from different backgrounds. Based on my experience, I believe we need to create awareness among the parents and the students to support each other in this matter.”

“Boys mostly dropout from school for two major reasons, one is poverty and the second is they are not focused on their studies. Today, children are getting more opportunities to study and build their own lives than most of us ever did,” Kumar added.

M Salimuzzaman, deputy director of NAEM (National Academy of Educational Management), told Y&I: “We give training to teachers, headmasters and principals. We have different courses for teachers at secondary and higher education levels. We also give training on ICT (information and communications technology) and English language. We also encourage education research. The research is conducted by both teachers who are working here and those who come from outside. We have some wonderful training courses that help teachers to do their job more effectively, and they also learn how to motivate students.”

Syed M Shoeb, assistant teacher of Jahanabad Government Primary School at Mirpur, has been teaching for the past 10 years. He told Y&I: “The dropout rate has decreased among primary school children and there is no reason to believe otherwise. We are receiving positive feedback from parents almost on a daily basis. That is what makes me so optimistic about the matter. For example, parents come to us and ask how their children are doing at school. Every month, we have to visit some students at home to check how they are doing and motivate them. Now, the surprising thing is that going on such visits motivates me to work harder. Of course, there have been some exceptional cases where the families didn’t seem that interested to talk to us. However, I have never come across any family saying they do not want to send their kids to school.”

BRAC, a development organisation, runs many successful schools throughout the country. When contacted, BRAC, informed Y&I via email: “It is a combination of multiple factors that influence very low dropout rates at BRAC schools. The schools are located within half a kilometre of a student’s home. We ensure that teachers and students maintain a positive relationship. We strictly maintain that students should not suffer any physical and mental punishment. Individual attention is given to each child; and extra time and support for low performing children by the teacher helps them understand lessons clearly. Children are actively involved in the learning process. They have the opportunity to exercise their creativity. The school timings are flexible and are fixed according to the needs of parents and children. Schools have no long vacations (maximum eight days for each Eid), as a result children are not detached from the classroom for long periods of time. Most of the work is done in the classroom, ensuring little to no homework so there is no extra pressure for the children. Play and co-curricular activities are integrated as an integral part of education. Parents and community are actively involved with the schools.”

Nasrin Jhan, executive director of Disabled Child Foundation, a non-government organization that works with physically-challenged children, said: “First of all, I would like to congratulate the government on achieving steady success in improving our literacy rate. We let physically-challenged children study with other students. That way, those children get the motivation to continue their education and do better. We know the government has taken initiatives for inclusive education to ensure the right to education for all children. So, surely literacy rate will be higher through these initiatives.”

Photos: File, Internet

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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