Down and out

  • High prevalence of dropouts in primary education is a significant impediment to providing free primary education
Down and out

Feb 19, 2015-

Dropout students are those who leave school or college before they complete their studies. In this article, we will refer to dropout to signify those students who have dropped out of the primary level, ie grades 1-5. Dropouts leave the school system without completing a grade, so in the context of the primary level, this means that a dropout fails to reach grade five.

Nepal’s dropouts

High dropout rates in Nepal will definitely create obstacles to achieving the government’s plan for ‘Education for All’ (EFA) by 2015. In one study, the dropout rate of primary education in 2012/13 was 5.2 percent, the repetition rate 10.6, and the promotion rate is 84.2. In 2011/12, the dropout rate was 5.4 percent, showing that there has been little progress. High dropout rates were found among students who repeated grades.

These figures show that the chances of obtaining EFA in primary level by 2015 are slim. Still, 4.8 percent of students are leaving school every year and the repetition rate is also quite high. The government is investing huge amounts on primary education, but the results have not been as expected. The government has allocated Rs. 86.03 billion for education sector and has prioritised primary education.

The dropout rate might have decreased slightly but they are still continuing for the following major reasons—accessibility: physical, social distance, social discrimination; affordability: direct, indirect, and opportunity costs of schooling; quality: infrastructure, facilities, materials, and teachers; and relevance: curriculum-needs and values, skill, employment. Besides, access and equity, quality degeneration, lack of school-community relationships, public-private dichotomies, and under-financing are other major issues. The present dropout rate is improving on average but when seen closer, the dropout rate of Dalits and other marginalised communities is still high.

Socio-economic status and geographical barriers etc are some of the reasons. Dropouts are often part of a process, rather than the result of one single event. Therefore, they have more than one proximate reason. Both demand (individual) and supply-driven factors (school) are rooted in cultural and contextual realities, which make each situation different.

What to tackle

There are different challenges that need to be tackled if the aim is to provide free and compulsory primary education by 2015. Though there are several mechanisms that help to promote inclusiveness in education, they are still not reaching targeted groups. Scholarships are provided to the needy but how efficient these scholarships have been and if they are reaching those in dire need is another story. This situation must be rectified through governmental monitoring mechanisms. Furthermore, the release of scholarship amounts is often delayed; they reach students only at the end of the academic year, discouraging students and parents and jeopardising the completion of primary education.

Among school dropouts and out-of-school children, a significant number are children with special needs. Among the total students enrolled in primary education, 51,766 are developmentally challenged. But there are no pertinent mechanisms to address their problems. Fulfilling the needs of various special needs children is thus a prime challenge. Current policies and programmes are neither sufficient nor efficient in providing rights-based education, which has become a barrier to obtaining a primary education.

How to proceed

There are different notions about providing free and primary education for all, but as a governmental policy, there are gaps and avenues for improvement to fulfill the stated goal. Among the measures that could be implemented are mid-day meals as per the need. Basic physical facilities and educational materials need to be provided and the quality of child-friendly teaching methods must be ensured. Alternative education provisions can also be provisioned for dropouts. Going further, local, female teachers must be encouraged and two languages, with one mother tongue, can be utilised as the medium of instruction.

The overall educational status of disadvantaged groups might have changed over time but they still lag behind in several instances. A firm commitment to the widespread and equitable provision of primary education is the first requirement to eradicating social and economic deprivation. If the problem of dropouts in primary education is to be solved, remedial actions are needed to address, and also involve, all stakeholders in the primary education system. The wisdom is to act in a concerted spirit by involving parents, teachers, headmasters, education officers, and the government. Children and the community should also be made aware of the consequences in the family and community by student dropouts in primary education.

The reasons for dropping out of school are myriad but dropouts are common among children whose families are poor and marginalised. It is difficult for socially-excluded families to continue and support children’s schooling when the parents’ income is even not sufficient to fulfill basic needs such as food and clothing. Though there are scholarship provisions, help and support from the government side and different I/NGOs, the prescribed solutions are not sustainable. The direct and indirect cost of schooling is high, which has made it difficult for parents to send their children to schools, despite the government mandated provision of free education.


- Devkota and Bagale are M.Phil scholars at Kathmandu University

Published: 20-02-2015 08:48

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