Countering ignorance and tackling social stigmas are the only way forward
Quality of education is one factor that plays a major role in the development of any nation.
Looking at the education sector in Bangladesh, we can see that the rate of literacy has increased over the past decade while dropout rates have decreased. It seems the present government is treating the education sector with the utmost importance and Bangladesh is moving towards rapid development as a whole.
However, certain unforeseen problems are acting as a barrier in boosting our education sector.
If we look at the statistics, we can see that the rate of dropout in the secondary level is near 40%. The average admission rate of female students is higher than that of male students at the secondary level, while over 40% of female students admitted in the sixth grade are dropping out before completing the tenth grade, something that is very worrying and unexpected as a whole.
A large dropout rate is a burning issue at the secondary level of education. But there are many reasons behind so many students dropping out and poverty is one of the factors most responsible.
Another reason is lack of awareness in education itself. Parents in our country are mostly illiterate, and this ignorance has an adverse effect on the education of their children. They refuse to invest in education because knowing the profitability of these investments is beyond the scope of their imagination.
As a result, they do not know about the positive outcome of providing their children with a good education. Their ignorance leads to a lack of education and encourages child labour.
On the flipside, by far the biggest reason for dropout in female students is, of course, child marriage. Although there has been some change in urban areas, child marriage is still quite prevalent in the rural areas of our country. As soon as girls get married at an early age, their studies are halted, usually by request of the family of the husband.
There are other reasons for lack of proper education in the country such as disregard of the students towards education, inadequate number of teachers compared to students, lack of quality teachers, lack of adequate facilities for the students, budget deficit in education, and many more.
The first step to remedying the dropout situation would be to make every family aware of the importance of education -- they must understand that the most valuable investment in life is investment in education.
The sliver of hope is that the poverty rate in the country is declining significantly. And if students want, it is possible to conquer poverty and continue their studies -- and that’s why a positive attitude towards education is needed. To keep students from dropping out, a pro-active method is needed to identify those students who are at-risk -- such as warning signs of student disengagement, failing grades, poor attendance, and other warning signs closely linked with dropping out.
The present government has taken several initiatives to reduce dropout in educational institutions, such as distributing free textbooks to students at the beginning of the year, granting stipends, etc. But these facilities are not enough for our students.
The government should be more responsible in addressing the problems of the students, and that means increasing the annual budget to the education sector.
And above all, there must be a combined initiative of students, teachers, parents, and the government to ensure quality education and reduce student dropout.
Gazi Md Abdur Rashid is a Research Officer in District Education Office of Secondary and Higher Education in Munshiganj.