One in five children dropped out of school last year due to high levels of poverty, child marriage, social insecurity and marginalisation, experts have said.
Although data from Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics (BANBEIS) showed a 10% increase in the net enrollment rate for secondary and primary schools in the last ten years, it also pointed to an alarming dropout rate.
The rate of 19.2% recorded in 2016 was just a single percentage point lower than that of 2015.
The executive director of the Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE), Rasheda K Chowdhury, said there were socio-economic reasons for children dropping out of school.
“Although primary education is free and the textbooks are provided by the government, a large number of children from ultra poor areas - such as char areas, haor areas and the Hill Tracts - are barely enrolled in the public school system,” she said.
“Things like poor teaching methods, incompetent untrained teachers, lack of encouragement has caused children to not continue their schooling.
“The problem is worse for indigenous children because even though the government has published textbooks in five indigenous languages, the teachers are not equipped to teach them in it. These children are simply not comfortable in a mainstream classroom and so their dropout rates are higher”.
The government, however, claims steps are being taken to reduce the high level of dropouts.
Director General of Directorate of Primary Education (DPE), Dr Abu Hena Mostafa Kamal, said the national rate had fallen to 19.2% in 2016 from 47.2% in 2005.
“This is progress,” he said. “The government has introduced stipend and stipulation to encourage school enrollment. The school feeding and take-home ration programmes have also played a pivotal role in eliminating the school dropout rate.”
The government’s statistics from BANBEIS show that in 2015, the national dropout rate in the secondary level was 40.29%, out of which 45.92% were girls and 33.72% were boys. That number slightly decreased last year with an overall dropout rate at of 38.30% with 42.19% being girls and 33.80% being boys.
“Physical disability is one of the major reasons behind the existing dropout rate while in some parts of the country, poverty plays a big role too,” said Dr Kamal.
The overall enrollment in secondary level in 2016 was 67.84%, out of which 73.10% were girls and 63.85% were boys.
Prof Md Elias Hossain, the director (secondary) of the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education, said child marriage was the key reason for girls dropping out of the secondary level.
“Most of the female students under class VIII and IX drop out from school because of child marriage,” he said. “A lot of them are forced to get married if they fail their exams.
“If these child marriages can be prevented, the dropout rate would be reduced significantly.”
DSHE Director Elias suggested that if the students who failed the PSC and JSC level examinations were allowed to take admission in the next level or class, and a recovery system was introduced to retake the previous examination, then the rate of school dropout might reduce significantly.
Rasheda K Chowdhury added that social insecurity for female students is a big reason for their higher percentage of dropout rate from secondary level.
“There is also a gender preference still prevalent in many rural families where they actively choose to educate their male child and keep the girl child/children at home to do chores,” she said.
The CAMPE Executive Director recommended special measures to provide support, supervision and academic backing to those who are at risk of dropping from both primary and secondary levels of education.