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The Financial Express

Helping the school dropouts

| Updated: April 22, 2022 22:18:09


Helping the school dropouts

Many people had feared that educational institutions of primary, secondary and tertiary levels would have high dropout rates because of the havoc that the pandemic wreaked on the lives of millions during the past two years. A study carried out by 21 national and international organisations has found the fear to be true, to a large extent, at primary and secondary levels. However, dropout rates varied from one class to another.

The study that was carried out on 328 schools in 17 districts found the maximum dropout rate among students of classes four and nine---35 per cent and 43 per cent, respectively. However, belying the earlier predictions, girl students are coming to their classes in higher numbers in proportion to boys. That is a piece of welcome news. Usually, poor and low-income families force girls to discontinue studies in any adverse situation, including economic hardship.

The primary reasons, the study has mentioned, that forced students to give up their classes include involvement in economic activities, child marriage, migration and shifting to religious educational institutions. During the pandemic, those issues had also come up for discussion. Naturally, parents and guardians decide the stream of schooling for boys and girls. When the pandemic had been in full fury, many poor and low-income families lost their income, fully or partially. Some parents got their children engaged in economic activities. None knows for sure how many families are showing interest in sending their children again to school.

Similarly, many families had made a reverse migration from cities to villages, failing to earn their livelihoods. Children of these families have suffered the most. Many of them have not returned to classes. There is no certainty that they ever will.

The incumbent education minister, who attended the unveiling of the study report in Dhaka late last week as the chief guest, admitted the huge learning loss that students across all levels had suffered during the pandemic. The truth is, no amount of effort would recoup that loss.

The online classes arranged during the peak Covid time had helped a section of students who had access to internet facilities. Yet that could hardly fill the void. Then again, the digital divide deprived many others of the opportunity to have access to online classes.

Students are now back to schools, colleges and universities, attending new classes. They are not anyway learning the lessons that were supposed to be taught during the Covid-time. So, it is a lifetime loss. The education minister, while speaking at the unveiling ceremony of the study in question, underscored the need for a long-term plan that would help compensate for the study losses in primary and secondary schools. The government, under the circumstances, needs to be more focused on the quality of education of the present day and the future. Lamenting over the past loss will be of no use.

As far as dropouts of primary and secondary schools are concerned, the government should help the economically distressed urban and rural families send their children back to school. Public funds are allocated for many redundant projects and programmes every year. If the government means business, it can save those amounts and spend on a good purpose.

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