Literature Review

Introduction

Ethiopia is a vast and diverse country with the second highest population in Africa estimated at  around 100 million and it is growing rapidly at an average annual rate of 2.6%. Children under  15 years of age account for over 33 million of the total population. The majority of people live in  rural areas and their main occupation is farming. Agriculture plays a pivotal role in Ethiopia as it  employs some 80% of the population, contributes 47% of the national income and accounts for  approximately 90% of the country’s exports. (National EFA 2015 Review Report)

In Ethiopia, access to primary education  has increased and the completion rate to grade five stands at 69.5% in 2013/14, but the majority of  children still do not complete the second cycle of primary (grades 5 to 8) due to high repetition and drop‐out rates  throughout the system." (National EFA 2015 Review Report).  As a result of this, substantial number of primary school children are leaving schooling without acquiring the most basic skills. Their brief schooling experience consists frequently of limited learning opportunities in overcrowded classrooms with insufficient learning materials and under-qualified teachers. "Although the government had taken an aggressive step in expanding teacher education colleges that have been supplying qualified teachers for schools in Ethiopia and professional skills development programs in teaching, the Pupil Teacher Ratio (PTR)  is still higher than the Sub‐Saharan countries’ average, which stood at 45 for primary level and 25 for secondary level in 2008 (UNESCO, 2011). Ethiopia is moving very quickly to equip teachers with additional skills but at the primary level, just fewer than 30% of teachers retain a qualification considered too low by the standard." (EFA 2015 report)

Such schooling circumstances, together with personal and family level factors such as ill-health, malnutrition and poverty, jeopardise meaningful access to education for many children. As a result, many children are registered in schools but fail to attend, participate but fail to learn, are enrolled for several years but fail to progress and drop out from school. Failure to complete a full cycle of primary school (Grades 1 to 8) not only limits future opportunities for children but also represents a significant drain on the limited resources that the country has for the provision of primary education. According to Mbiti (2016, P.109), countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Ethiopia spend about  5 to 4.6 of their GDP to support education, which compares favourably to North American and European countries that spend about 5.3 percent of GDP on Education. So the wastage in the system affects the economic progress of the country significantly.

The overall Dropout situation

According to the National EFA 2015 report, based on 2012/13 data, the following chart displays the rate of dropout and equivalent number of students that can be expected to leave formal schooling, from a starting 1,000, at each grade from  one to eight.

Dropout rates from each grade and an equivalent number lost from 1,000 that start  grade one

Grade

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

Completers

Number enter

1000

752

651

585

507

410

363

307

% Dropout

25%

13%

10%

13%

19%

12%

15%

32%

208

Number leave

248

101

66

78

97

47

56

99

 

During data collection to compile the report, writers of the Education for all review report (EFA, 2015) gave the following quote secured from one of their reliable sources:  

"One of the critical problems of the country’s education sector is a high dropout rate in almost all levels. Many students, particularly in emerging regions and pastoralist areas drop out of school at early grades. One of the reasons for this to take place is that parents do not want to send their children to schools since they are using them as a workforce in securing their livelihood. Besides, some families cannot afford their children’s daily meal and other expenses related to their children’s education. As a result, they force their children to quit from schooling and engage themselves in  income generating activities or support family in household chores."

While children dropping out without completing primary school remains a key constraint for achieving Universal Primary Education (UPE), experiences of various other countries in the last 10 years have demonstrated that it is possible to change. This review of literature draws on a range of resources to provide a synthesis on drop out. The paper focuses on patterns of participation, age-specific dropout rates, equity in dropout rates, and the link between over age enrolment and dropout rates. It will also outline the main causes of drop out.

Patterns of Participation and Drop out

Common patterns of primary school progression are important as they highlight key points where children are most at risk of dropping out from school. Here  three main profiles of participation are extracted in primary school using information from Lewin (2009).

Profile

Description

Relevance to Ethiopia

First, high participation rates across the primary school cycle.

Dropout rates for this profile is low and most children enrolled in primary schooling are likely to complete even lower secondary education

Unless in certain urban locations, this is not the case for Ethiopia

 

Second, with high enrolment rates in the first year of primary schooling

Usually, the grade specific gross enrolment rate is over 150 percent indicating that there is high grade repetition and over age children in grade 1 and there may be under age children as well. It is likely that the high enrolment rate in Grade 1  is the result of policies to increase access and achieve UPE. Nevertheless, by the end of the primary school cycle, the age specific enrolment rate drops significantly, even below 50 percent, indicating moderate to high drop out of primary school.

In Ethiopia  the Net Enrolment   ratio for the year 2013/14 is 95.1% for boys, 90.1% for  girls, and 92.6%  for both  sexes. But the overall Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) was over 104% which shows enrolment of more over and under aged children in the system.  (National EFA 2015 Review Report).

 

Third, with age specific enrolment rates in the first years of primary schooling below 100 percent

A high proportion of children are still unreached

In Ethiopia, participation rates in  Grade 1 are below 85 percent and moderate dropout rates during the primary school first cycle results in completion rates below 50   percent and more children are still out of school.

 

 

Children aged 6 to 8 can only drop out from school once they have started. It is estimated that pupils who are under age or are on time are more likely to repeat the first grade of primary school than pupils who are over age (Ananga E., 2010).   In grade 1 of primary school dropout rates are relatively small (below the average for primary school) and there is not a consistent pattern of drop out by over age enrolment. Age-specific dropout rates for older children increase drastically after the age of 10. Evidences show that  the older the child is the greater the chances of not completing the basic cycle of primary school (Cameron, 2005). This is due to the fact that for older children the opportunity cost of schooling increases significantly and with this comes a pressure to work or to get married.

Since by definition, children who are not promoted to the next grade must either repeat the same grade or drop out of school, two general conclusions can be drawn about patterns of participation and dropout rates from existing results.

  • First, for regions with high gross enrolment rates in Grade 1 of primary school, i.e. those in profile 2, the observed reduction in gross enrolment rates across cohorts from Grade 1 to Grade 2 is mainly the result of high repetition rates, usually for under age children. This conclusion, however, is not relevant to Ethiopia for their is an automatic promotion policy[1] whereby attempts are made to help almost all children registered in grade 1 to make it to grade 2.
  • Second, towards the end of the primary school cycle reductions in grade specific gross enrolment rates for countries in profile 2 and 3 are likely to be the result of drop out, mainly from over age children. Nevertheless, in countries with high stake examinations at the end of primary school, for example Kenya, gross enrolment rate at the end of primary school can be affected by children who repeat, or are encouraged to repeat, to increase their chances for a successful transition into secondary school. In these cases, gross enrolment rates in the final year of primary school are likely to go up. In the case of Ethiopia and particularly in Pastoral and agro pastoral locations , most children join school being older to the level they are joining hence more chance of dropping out of school in the later years of the primary grades.  

Causes of Drop out

There are many factors associated with drop out, some of which belong to the individual, such as poor health or malnutrition and motivation. Others emerge from children’s household situations such as child labour and poverty. School level factors also play a role in increasing pressures to drop out such as teacher’s absenteeism, school location and poor quality educational provision. The system of educational provision at the community level generates conditions that can ultimately impact on the likelihood of children to drop out from school. Therefore, both demand and supply driven factors , are embedded in cultural and contextual realities, which make each circumstance different (Hunt, 2010). Nevertheless, it is possible to make general points about the causes of drop out as follows: 

  • First, there is not one single cause of drop out. Drop out is often a process rather than the result of one single event, and therefore has more than one proximate cause (Hunt, 2008). Among others the following details could be mentioned:
    • Perceptions of how education will influence lifestyle and career possibilities/probabilities, life chances in the labour market are shown to be factors in both early withdrawal and sustained access in different contexts.
    • The availability of options to access secondary school and beyond, shape decision-making of parents regarding the continuation of children in primary level.
    • Perceived quality of education and the ability of children to make progress through the schooling system can affect the priority placed on schooling within the household.
    • It is also evident that children whose parents have received some sort of schooling are more likely themselves to attend school for longer. In particular, a mother’s education level often influences length of access for girls. (Devlin, 2014)
  • Second, poverty appears to influence the demand for schooling, not only because it affects the inability of households to pay school fees and other costs associated with education, but also because it is associated with a high opportunity cost of schooling for children. As children grow older, the opportunity cost of education is even larger, hence increasing the pressure for children to work and earn income for the household as opposed to spending time in education. Poverty also interacts with other points of social disadvantage, with the interaction of factors putting further pressure on vulnerable and marginalised children to drop out (Hunt, 2008:52).For example, orphans, migrants, lower caste/scheduled tribe children and children from minority language groups in many, but not all, contexts have disrupted access, and are more prone to drop out.
  • Third, distance to schools, poor quality of education, inadequate facilities, overcrowded classrooms, inappropriate language of instruction, teacher absenteeism and, in the case of girls school safety, are common causes for school dropout (Colclough, et al.2000). These are seen as supply side causes of drop out, mainly driven at the school level. We would certainly expect many of the individual elements identified in the school-effectiveness literature to be important not only to academic achievement but also to retention in school because students who benefit from them and perform well will be encouraged to continue (Lioyd & etal 2000)
  • It is not only critical to identify what school factors affect enrolment and retention more generally, it is also important to determine which matter more for girls and which matter more for boys (Lioyd & etal 2000). Gendered social practices within households, communities and schools, influence differing patterns of access for girls and boys. In most contexts girls have less access and are more prone to dropping out, but increasingly, often in poor and urban environments, the pressure seems to be on boys to withdraw. Within gendered social practices, school safety seems to be an important factor for retaining girls at school, whereas availability of income generating opportunities and flexible seasonal schooling could promote school retention for boys (Colclough et al., 2000; Leach et al., 2003). Other elements of the school environment may be shared by boys and girls but nonetheless have differential implications for girls. For example, limited or poor-quality toilet facilities may have differential implications for girls in terms of enrolment and attendance because of their special needs during their menstrual periods, as well as their vulnerability to sexual harassment on their way to or from the toilet. (Lioyd & etal 2000)

  Key take up messages to reduce dropout

 In an early phase of a country’s economic and educational development, school effectiveness is likely to depend more heavily on those factors that encourage attendance and retention than on those factors more directly linked to the development of cognitive competencies. At later phases of educational development, when almost all children complete basic schooling, factors enhancing standardized test scores per grade attended become central elements of school effectiveness. Thus, in developing countries where enrolment is not yet universal or where repetition rates and dropout rates are substantial during the primary years, an approach to measuring school quality that is limited to factors affecting the test scores of students who remain in school will be missing an important part of the story. ((Lioyd & etal 2000, P. 113) Thus, all other measures first boost access and staying in school should be strengthened and the rest of the steps to improve quality can follow suit. Below are some key messages to fighting against dropout:

Key message 1: Dropout rates have to be tackled in conjunction with reductions in over age enrolment, in particular at higher grades of primary school.

It is clear that over age children are more likely to drop out towards the end of the primary school cycle than children who are in the appropriate age for their grade. As children grow, the opportunity cost to them of remaining in school increases, especially if they are from poor households. Consequently, this exerts pressures towards child labour and taking up household responsibilities. In addition, overcrowded classrooms together with poor quality of teaching make the supply of primary schooling less attractive and acts to push children at risk of dropping out (for example over age children) to eventually drop out. Some dual policies of supporting promotion through primary school, reducing repetition, and redirecting overage children out of school back into mainstream at a faster progression appears to reduce dropout rates. Hence, a combination of demand and supply factors often acts to determine children’s likelihood to remain and complete a full cycle of primary education.

Key message 2: Flexible schooling hours and systems, together with multi-grade and multi-age teaching approaches and appropriate language of instruction, can help to reduce dropout rates.

"While there has been significant progress in access and improvements in some equity indicators (for example in the Gender Parity Index (GPI) in primary education, which is now above 0.90 in primary school), participation levels at primary remain much lower in some of the emerging regions and  among  pastoralist  and  semi‐pastoralist  groups.  From  approximately  three million out‐of‐school children of primary age in 2010, 2013/14 enrolment figures suggest that just fewer than one million of them remain out‐of‐school. Rural populations in general face serious accessibility constraints at secondary level. Alternative Basic Education (ABE)  has developed rapidly and has helped increase enrolment but problems of low quality and of transition between ABE and the formal school system remain." (National EFA 2015 Review Report)

Many children, particularly those in rural, agricultural areas have pressures on them to work which often clash with traditional schooling timetables. Temporary withdrawals in harvest times and for migrating communities pull children away from school, often leading to more permanent drop out (Hadley, 2010). Flexible schooling timetables have been known to cut dropouts in areas where outside social and economic factors pose a serious threat to consistent attendance. In practice, schooling times might be adjusted during peak harvest periods or when local economic activity is highest to limit interference with children’s work duties, shift systems and evening classes might be introduced. The annual school programme may also shift so those involved in seasonal tasks are not excluded (Kane, 2004). Classrooms are increasingly becoming places where there is a wide range in age and ability. This requires measures which recognise a wide age and ability range in your typical classroom. Evidence has shown that multi-grade schooling can positively be used to target the different learning needs of children and potentially reduce drop out (Little, 2008). Finally, language of instruction in the early years can influence dropout rates (Hunt, 2008). Ensuring that teachers are trained to use local language in the early grades to teach would mean better understanding for children starting school, reducing the likelihood of drop out due to lack of academic progress. Tanzania’s policy of using only more experienced teachers for the first three grades together with the use of Kiswahili – albeit not a local language for all children – and remedial classes can be seen as further ways to prevent drop-out.

Key message 3: Providing micro-enterprise support for poor households is necessary for improving school retention (Hunt, 2010).

There are a number of interventions which give households and children support, either monetary or in-kind, and these could be linked to the condition that households enrol children in school and ensure that they attend regularly. Attending regularly ensures that learning is sustained to achieve academic progress which reduces the likelihood of drop out due to poor progress in learning and achievement.

Key  message 4: Improved child health and nutrition and dealing with the gendered nature of the process of drop out, are important to improve retention and completion of primary school.

Government efforts for improving school access, retention and achievement will not be successful unless accompanied by early and continuous health interventions to tackle nutritional deficiencies and other health related illness and conditions that impact on children’s school absenteeism and their overall cognitive development (Pridmore, 2007;Buxton, 2010 forthcoming). Education Sector Development Plan (ESDP V) of Ethiopia,    " aims to provide children between the ages of four and six with early  childhood care and education, increase access at the primary level so that the EFA goals can be reached, improve and increase teachers’ skills through training and increase the transition rate from  primary to secondary school." (National EFA 2015 Review Report). In Ethiopia Progress in recent years has moved the Gross Enrolment Rate (GER) of  children aged 4‐6 to 33.65% in 2013/14. (National EFA 2015 Review Report) . Gender cuts across a wide range of constraints that lead to dropout. There are gendered cultural practices (Colclough et al., 2000), school safety issues(Leach et al., 2003) and teenage pregnancy (Kane, 2004) that affect the opportunities of girls and boys to complete primary school.

Key  message 5: Although extra resources to tackle drop out at school community level maybe useful, given the range of factors – economic, social, health which are likely to interact to impact participation and completion of schooling, a comprehensive sector wide approach with interconnectivity between relevant government departments and community based groups would achieve more sustainable impact on eliminating or drastically reducing school dropout.

 It is important to highlight that educational provision will be provided even without any considerations to drop out rates and non-completion of primary schooling. The question is how to manage educational provision so that it also leads to improvements in completion rates for a full cycle of primary or basic education. Certain approaches, such as the provision of early education in pre-school centres are likely to be resource intensive. Engaging community based institutions would support schools both on the side of supporting the child at homes and in the community setting as well as in the schools. Flexible school hours and automatic promotion are probably much less resource heavy. Health interventions in schools should contribute to drop out reductions and should be planned and delivered with collaboration between government departments engaged in health and/or education service delivery. School feeding programmes that aim to provide nutritious meals to children are likely to have the double benefit of improving attendance and general well-being of children. Ethiopia has introduced school feeding program in all its primary schools with special attention to children coming from poor households. Similarly Ethiopia has reported that  "an inter‐ministerial framework is designed to prepare both parents and children for the transition to school and serves as one tool to improve the retention rates of children and their readiness (both psychologically and in terms of health) for  learning."  (National EFA 2015 Review Report)

Key  message 6: There is not one single intervention that will solve the complexity of the process of school dropout. It is important to take into account the possible externalities of different interventions.

Perhaps the only two policies that can be used to directly tackle the problem of drop out are on-time registration in Grade 1 and automatic grade promotion throughout primary school. Nevertheless, these policies alone are unlikely to lead to ‘meaningful access'  unless accompanied by general improvements in the demand and supply of primary education and importantly the quality of that provision. As discussed by Hunt (2008), late enrolment and high grade repetition are only two of the precursors of drop out. Irregular attendance and very low achievement are other precursors of drop out and these may have very different causes than late enrolment and repetition. In addition, the process of drop out is affected by a number of individual, household, school and community factors.  Individual and family factors, such as age, mother’s education, religion, and parents’ marital status, are all statistically significant factors affecting the probability of dropout, many with stronger effects for girls than boys.(Lioyd & etal 2000)

 Interestingly, different policies and interventions exist to help families overcome disadvantage and marginalisation. It is unclear however whether these policies and interventions have complementarities that can impact upon children’s completion of primary school.

Key  message 7: Location specific research can be instrumental in identifying appropriate policies and interventions. Some causes of dropout could be quite specific to a particular locale, hence, unless attempts are made to conduct specific researches the broad country or region level intervention will miss those details being short-sighted.

 

Reference

Access to Basic Education in Ghana: The Evidence and the Issues. CREATE Country Analytic Review. Winneba/Brighton: University of Education at Winneba/University of Sussex. Ampiah, G.J., Akyeampong, K., & Rolleston C., (2010) ‘Improving Educational Access in Ghana: Case Studies of Two Communities in Northern and Southern Ghana’ CREATE Monograph Series (forthcoming) Brighton: University of Sussex Ampiah, J.G., Akyeampong, K., & Rolleston C., (2010) Synthetic Report: Improving Educational Access in Ghana – Key Findings from CREATE: Forthcoming CREATE Monograph, University of Sussex, UK Ampiah G.J. and Adu-Yeboah C., (2009) ‘Mapping the incidence of school dropout: a case study of communities in Northern Ghana’

Alexander, R. (2008). ‘Education for All, the Quality Imperative and the Problem of Pedagogy.’ CREATE Pathways to Access No 20. Consortium for Research on Educational Access, Transitions and Equity: University of Sussex. Akyeampong K, Djangmah, J., Oduro, A., Seidu, A. and Hunt, F. (2007),

Carnoy, M., Ngware, M., & Oketch, M. (2015). The Role of Classroom Resources and National Educational Context in Student Learning Gains: Comparing Botswana, Kenya, and South Africa. Comparative Education Review, 59(2), 199-233. doi:10.1086/680173

Clark, M. (2005). From Schoolmarm to State Superintendent: The Changing Role of Women in Education, 1847–2004. In Scott P., Thatcher L., & Whetstone S. (Eds.), Women In Utah History: Paradigm Or Paradox? (pp. 223-248). University Press of Colorado. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt4cgr1m.10

Comparative Education, vol. 45 Issue 2, pp 219-232Ananga E., (2010) ‘Understanding the push and pull factors in school dropout: A Case Studyof Southern Ghana’ CREATE Monograph Series (forthcoming) Brighton: University of Sussex, UKAnanga E (2010): InBanerjee, A. and Duflo, E. (2006). ‘Addressing Absence.’ Bureau for Research in EconomicAnalysis of Development (BREAD) Policy Paper, No. 8. Available fromhttp://www.cid.harvard.edu/bread/papers/policy/p008.pdf Brock-Utne, B., & Halmsdottir, H. (2004) Language Policies and Practices in Tanzania and South Africa: problems and challenges, in Development Southern Africa, 22(4): 467-482.Cain, M.T. (1977). ‘The Economic Activities of Children in a Village in Bangladesh.’

 International Journal of Educational Development , Vol. 24, No. 1, pp.67-83Buxton C (2010) ‘The relationship between malnutrition, educational achievement and attendance among school children in Ghana’ CREATE Research Monograph (forthcoming)Brighton: University of Sussex, UK Case, A., Hosegood, V. and Lund, F. (2005). ‘The reach and impact of child support grants: evidence from Kwa Zulu-Natal.’

Jacob, B., & Rothstein, J. (2016). The Measurement of Student Ability in Modern Assessment Systems. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 30(3), 85-107. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/43855702

Jain, A. (2016). Examining Progress and Equity in Information Received by Women Using a Modern Method in 25 Developing Countries. International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 42(3), 131-140. doi:10.1363/42e1616

 Lloyd, C., Mensch, B., & Clark, W. (2000). The Effects of Primary School Quality on School Dropout among Kenyan Girls and Boys. Comparative Education Review, 44(2), 113-147. doi:10.1086/447600

Mbiti, I. (2016). The Need for Accountability in Education in Developing Countries. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 30(3), 109-132. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/43855703

Population and Development Review, 3(3): 201-227.Cameron, L. (2005). ‘Primary Completion Rates.’ EPDC Technical Paper WP-09-01.Washington DC: Education Policy and Data Center.

 Riggan, J. (2016). The Teacher State: Morality and Everyday Sovereignty over Schools. In The Struggling State: Nationalism, Militarism, and the Education of Eritrea (pp. 155-192). Philadelphia; Rome; Tokyo: Temple University Press. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1kft8gz.9

Taylor, J. (2004). Education and training. In Social Indicators for Aboriginal Governance: Insights from the Thamarrurr Region, Northern Territory (pp. 59-68). ANU Press. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2jbkg6.12

Woessmann, L. (2016). The Importance of School Systems: Evidence from International Differences in Student Achievement. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 30(3), 3-31. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/43855699

 

[1] In an effort to improve transition and retention in schools, Ethiopia has an automatic promotion policy. This policy ensures that a student who attended class significant amount of the class time, after checked through a continuous assessment method, will be transferred to the next grade. 

Text

Literature Review

Introduction

Ethiopia is a vast and diverse country with the second highest population in Africa estimated at  around 100 million and it is growing rapidly at an average annual rate of 2.6%. Children under  15 years of age account for over 33 million of the total population. The majority of people live in  rural areas and their main occupation is farming. Agriculture plays a pivotal role in Ethiopia as it  employs some 80% of the population, contributes 47% of the national income and accounts for  approximately 90% of the country’s exports. (National EFA 2015 Review Report)

In Ethiopia, access to primary education  has increased and the completion rate to grade five stands at 69.5% in 2013/14, but the majority of  children still do not complete the second cycle of primary (grades 5 to 8) due to high repetition and drop‐out rates  throughout the system." (National EFA 2015 Review Report).  As a result of this, substantial number of primary school children are leaving schooling without acquiring the most basic skills. Their brief schooling experience consists frequently of limited learning opportunities in overcrowded classrooms with insufficient learning materials and under-qualified teachers. "Although the government had taken an aggressive step in expanding teacher education colleges that have been supplying qualified teachers for schools in Ethiopia and professional skills development programs in teaching, the Pupil Teacher Ratio (PTR)  is still higher than the Sub‐Saharan countries’ average, which stood at 45 for primary level and 25 for secondary level in 2008 (UNESCO, 2011). Ethiopia is moving very quickly to equip teachers with additional skills but at the primary level, just fewer than 30% of teachers retain a qualification considered too low by the standard." (EFA 2015 report)

Such schooling circumstances, together with personal and family level factors such as ill-health, malnutrition and poverty, jeopardise meaningful access to education for many children. As a result, many children are registered in schools but fail to attend, participate but fail to learn, are enrolled for several years but fail to progress and drop out from school. Failure to complete a full cycle of primary school (Grades 1 to 8) not only limits future opportunities for children but also represents a significant drain on the limited resources that the country has for the provision of primary education. According to Mbiti (2016, P.109), countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Ethiopia spend about  5 to 4.6 of their GDP to support education, which compares favourably to North American and European countries that spend about 5.3 percent of GDP on Education. So the wastage in the system affects the economic progress of the country significantly.

The overall Dropout situation

According to the National EFA 2015 report, based on 2012/13 data, the following chart displays the rate of dropout and equivalent number of students that can be expected to leave formal schooling, from a starting 1,000, at each grade from  one to eight.

Dropout rates from each grade and an equivalent number lost from 1,000 that start  grade one

Grade

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

Completers

Number enter

1000

752

651

585

507

410

363

307

% Dropout

25%

13%

10%

13%

19%

12%

15%

32%

208

Number leave

248

101

66

78

97

47

56

99

 

During data collection to compile the report, writers of the Education for all review report (EFA, 2015) gave the following quote secured from one of their reliable sources:  

"One of the critical problems of the country’s education sector is a high dropout rate in almost all levels. Many students, particularly in emerging regions and pastoralist areas drop out of school at early grades. One of the reasons for this to take place is that parents do not want to send their children to schools since they are using them as a workforce in securing their livelihood. Besides, some families cannot afford their children’s daily meal and other expenses related to their children’s education. As a result, they force their children to quit from schooling and engage themselves in  income generating activities or support family in household chores."

While children dropping out without completing primary school remains a key constraint for achieving Universal Primary Education (UPE), experiences of various other countries in the last 10 years have demonstrated that it is possible to change. This review of literature draws on a range of resources to provide a synthesis on drop out. The paper focuses on patterns of participation, age-specific dropout rates, equity in dropout rates, and the link between over age enrolment and dropout rates. It will also outline the main causes of drop out.

Patterns of Participation and Drop out

Common patterns of primary school progression are important as they highlight key points where children are most at risk of dropping out from school. Here  three main profiles of participation are extracted in primary school using information from Lewin (2009).

Profile

Description

Relevance to Ethiopia

First, high participation rates across the primary school cycle.

Dropout rates for this profile is low and most children enrolled in primary schooling are likely to complete even lower secondary education

Unless in certain urban locations, this is not the case for Ethiopia

 

Second, with high enrolment rates in the first year of primary schooling

Usually, the grade specific gross enrolment rate is over 150 percent indicating that there is high grade repetition and over age children in grade 1 and there may be under age children as well. It is likely that the high enrolment rate in Grade 1  is the result of policies to increase access and achieve UPE. Nevertheless, by the end of the primary school cycle, the age specific enrolment rate drops significantly, even below 50 percent, indicating moderate to high drop out of primary school.

In Ethiopia  the Net Enrolment   ratio for the year 2013/14 is 95.1% for boys, 90.1% for  girls, and 92.6%  for both  sexes. But the overall Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) was over 104% which shows enrolment of more over and under aged children in the system.  (National EFA 2015 Review Report).

 

Third, with age specific enrolment rates in the first years of primary schooling below 100 percent

A high proportion of children are still unreached

In Ethiopia, participation rates in  Grade 1 are below 85 percent and moderate dropout rates during the primary school first cycle results in completion rates below 50   percent and more children are still out of school.

 

 

Children aged 6 to 8 can only drop out from school once they have started. It is estimated that pupils who are under age or are on time are more likely to repeat the first grade of primary school than pupils who are over age (Ananga E., 2010).   In grade 1 of primary school dropout rates are relatively small (below the average for primary school) and there is not a consistent pattern of drop out by over age enrolment. Age-specific dropout rates for older children increase drastically after the age of 10. Evidences show that  the older the child is the greater the chances of not completing the basic cycle of primary school (Cameron, 2005). This is due to the fact that for older children the opportunity cost of schooling increases significantly and with this comes a pressure to work or to get married.

Since by definition, children who are not promoted to the next grade must either repeat the same grade or drop out of school, two general conclusions can be drawn about patterns of participation and dropout rates from existing results.

  • First, for regions with high gross enrolment rates in Grade 1 of primary school, i.e. those in profile 2, the observed reduction in gross enrolment rates across cohorts from Grade 1 to Grade 2 is mainly the result of high repetition rates, usually for under age children. This conclusion, however, is not relevant to Ethiopia for their is an automatic promotion policy[1] whereby attempts are made to help almost all children registered in grade 1 to make it to grade 2.
  • Second, towards the end of the primary school cycle reductions in grade specific gross enrolment rates for countries in profile 2 and 3 are likely to be the result of drop out, mainly from over age children. Nevertheless, in countries with high stake examinations at the end of primary school, for example Kenya, gross enrolment rate at the end of primary school can be affected by children who repeat, or are encouraged to repeat, to increase their chances for a successful transition into secondary school. In these cases, gross enrolment rates in the final year of primary school are likely to go up. In the case of Ethiopia and particularly in Pastoral and agro pastoral locations , most children join school being older to the level they are joining hence more chance of dropping out of school in the later years of the primary grades.  

Causes of Drop out

There are many factors associated with drop out, some of which belong to the individual, such as poor health or malnutrition and motivation. Others emerge from children’s household situations such as child labour and poverty. School level factors also play a role in increasing pressures to drop out such as teacher’s absenteeism, school location and poor quality educational provision. The system of educational provision at the community level generates conditions that can ultimately impact on the likelihood of children to drop out from school. Therefore, both demand and supply driven factors , are embedded in cultural and contextual realities, which make each circumstance different (Hunt, 2010). Nevertheless, it is possible to make general points about the causes of drop out as follows: 

  • First, there is not one single cause of drop out. Drop out is often a process rather than the result of one single event, and therefore has more than one proximate cause (Hunt, 2008). Among others the following details could be mentioned:
    • Perceptions of how education will influence lifestyle and career possibilities/probabilities, life chances in the labour market are shown to be factors in both early withdrawal and sustained access in different contexts.
    • The availability of options to access secondary school and beyond, shape decision-making of parents regarding the continuation of children in primary level.
    • Perceived quality of education and the ability of children to make progress through the schooling system can affect the priority placed on schooling within the household.
    • It is also evident that children whose parents have received some sort of schooling are more likely themselves to attend school for longer. In particular, a mother’s education level often influences length of access for girls. (Devlin, 2014)
  • Second, poverty appears to influence the demand for schooling, not only because it affects the inability of households to pay school fees and other costs associated with education, but also because it is associated with a high opportunity cost of schooling for children. As children grow older, the opportunity cost of education is even larger, hence increasing the pressure for children to work and earn income for the household as opposed to spending time in education. Poverty also interacts with other points of social disadvantage, with the interaction of factors putting further pressure on vulnerable and marginalised children to drop out (Hunt, 2008:52).For example, orphans, migrants, lower caste/scheduled tribe children and children from minority language groups in many, but not all, contexts have disrupted access, and are more prone to drop out.
  • Third, distance to schools, poor quality of education, inadequate facilities, overcrowded classrooms, inappropriate language of instruction, teacher absenteeism and, in the case of girls school safety, are common causes for school dropout (Colclough, et al.2000). These are seen as supply side causes of drop out, mainly driven at the school level. We would certainly expect many of the individual elements identified in the school-effectiveness literature to be important not only to academic achievement but also to retention in school because students who benefit from them and perform well will be encouraged to continue (Lioyd & etal 2000)
  • It is not only critical to identify what school factors affect enrolment and retention more generally, it is also important to determine which matter more for girls and which matter more for boys (Lioyd & etal 2000). Gendered social practices within households, communities and schools, influence differing patterns of access for girls and boys. In most contexts girls have less access and are more prone to dropping out, but increasingly, often in poor and urban environments, the pressure seems to be on boys to withdraw. Within gendered social practices, school safety seems to be an important factor for retaining girls at school, whereas availability of income generating opportunities and flexible seasonal schooling could promote school retention for boys (Colclough et al., 2000; Leach et al., 2003). Other elements of the school environment may be shared by boys and girls but nonetheless have differential implications for girls. For example, limited or poor-quality toilet facilities may have differential implications for girls in terms of enrolment and attendance because of their special needs during their menstrual periods, as well as their vulnerability to sexual harassment on their way to or from the toilet. (Lioyd & etal 2000)

  Key take up messages to reduce dropout

 In an early phase of a country’s economic and educational development, school effectiveness is likely to depend more heavily on those factors that encourage attendance and retention than on those factors more directly linked to the development of cognitive competencies. At later phases of educational development, when almost all children complete basic schooling, factors enhancing standardized test scores per grade attended become central elements of school effectiveness. Thus, in developing countries where enrolment is not yet universal or where repetition rates and dropout rates are substantial during the primary years, an approach to measuring school quality that is limited to factors affecting the test scores of students who remain in school will be missing an important part of the story. ((Lioyd & etal 2000, P. 113) Thus, all other measures first boost access and staying in school should be strengthened and the rest of the steps to improve quality can follow suit. Below are some key messages to fighting against dropout:

Key message 1: Dropout rates have to be tackled in conjunction with reductions in over age enrolment, in particular at higher grades of primary school.

It is clear that over age children are more likely to drop out towards the end of the primary school cycle than children who are in the appropriate age for their grade. As children grow, the opportunity cost to them of remaining in school increases, especially if they are from poor households. Consequently, this exerts pressures towards child labour and taking up household responsibilities. In addition, overcrowded classrooms together with poor quality of teaching make the supply of primary schooling less attractive and acts to push children at risk of dropping out (for example over age children) to eventually drop out. Some dual policies of supporting promotion through primary school, reducing repetition, and redirecting overage children out of school back into mainstream at a faster progression appears to reduce dropout rates. Hence, a combination of demand and supply factors often acts to determine children’s likelihood to remain and complete a full cycle of primary education.

Key message 2: Flexible schooling hours and systems, together with multi-grade and multi-age teaching approaches and appropriate language of instruction, can help to reduce dropout rates.

"While there has been significant progress in access and improvements in some equity indicators (for example in the Gender Parity Index (GPI) in primary education, which is now above 0.90 in primary school), participation levels at primary remain much lower in some of the emerging regions and  among  pastoralist  and  semi‐pastoralist  groups.  From  approximately  three million out‐of‐school children of primary age in 2010, 2013/14 enrolment figures suggest that just fewer than one million of them remain out‐of‐school. Rural populations in general face serious accessibility constraints at secondary level. Alternative Basic Education (ABE)  has developed rapidly and has helped increase enrolment but problems of low quality and of transition between ABE and the formal school system remain." (National EFA 2015 Review Report)

Many children, particularly those in rural, agricultural areas have pressures on them to work which often clash with traditional schooling timetables. Temporary withdrawals in harvest times and for migrating communities pull children away from school, often leading to more permanent drop out (Hadley, 2010). Flexible schooling timetables have been known to cut dropouts in areas where outside social and economic factors pose a serious threat to consistent attendance. In practice, schooling times might be adjusted during peak harvest periods or when local economic activity is highest to limit interference with children’s work duties, shift systems and evening classes might be introduced. The annual school programme may also shift so those involved in seasonal tasks are not excluded (Kane, 2004). Classrooms are increasingly becoming places where there is a wide range in age and ability. This requires measures which recognise a wide age and ability range in your typical classroom. Evidence has shown that multi-grade schooling can positively be used to target the different learning needs of children and potentially reduce drop out (Little, 2008). Finally, language of instruction in the early years can influence dropout rates (Hunt, 2008). Ensuring that teachers are trained to use local language in the early grades to teach would mean better understanding for children starting school, reducing the likelihood of drop out due to lack of academic progress. Tanzania’s policy of using only more experienced teachers for the first three grades together with the use of Kiswahili – albeit not a local language for all children – and remedial classes can be seen as further ways to prevent drop-out.

Key message 3: Providing micro-enterprise support for poor households is necessary for improving school retention (Hunt, 2010).

There are a number of interventions which give households and children support, either monetary or in-kind, and these could be linked to the condition that households enrol children in school and ensure that they attend regularly. Attending regularly ensures that learning is sustained to achieve academic progress which reduces the likelihood of drop out due to poor progress in learning and achievement.

Key  message 4: Improved child health and nutrition and dealing with the gendered nature of the process of drop out, are important to improve retention and completion of primary school.

Government efforts for improving school access, retention and achievement will not be successful unless accompanied by early and continuous health interventions to tackle nutritional deficiencies and other health related illness and conditions that impact on children’s school absenteeism and their overall cognitive development (Pridmore, 2007;Buxton, 2010 forthcoming). Education Sector Development Plan (ESDP V) of Ethiopia,    " aims to provide children between the ages of four and six with early  childhood care and education, increase access at the primary level so that the EFA goals can be reached, improve and increase teachers’ skills through training and increase the transition rate from  primary to secondary school." (National EFA 2015 Review Report). In Ethiopia Progress in recent years has moved the Gross Enrolment Rate (GER) of  children aged 4‐6 to 33.65% in 2013/14. (National EFA 2015 Review Report) . Gender cuts across a wide range of constraints that lead to dropout. There are gendered cultural practices (Colclough et al., 2000), school safety issues(Leach et al., 2003) and teenage pregnancy (Kane, 2004) that affect the opportunities of girls and boys to complete primary school.

Key  message 5: Although extra resources to tackle drop out at school community level maybe useful, given the range of factors – economic, social, health which are likely to interact to impact participation and completion of schooling, a comprehensive sector wide approach with interconnectivity between relevant government departments and community based groups would achieve more sustainable impact on eliminating or drastically reducing school dropout.

 It is important to highlight that educational provision will be provided even without any considerations to drop out rates and non-completion of primary schooling. The question is how to manage educational provision so that it also leads to improvements in completion rates for a full cycle of primary or basic education. Certain approaches, such as the provision of early education in pre-school centres are likely to be resource intensive. Engaging community based institutions would support schools both on the side of supporting the child at homes and in the community setting as well as in the schools. Flexible school hours and automatic promotion are probably much less resource heavy. Health interventions in schools should contribute to drop out reductions and should be planned and delivered with collaboration between government departments engaged in health and/or education service delivery. School feeding programmes that aim to provide nutritious meals to children are likely to have the double benefit of improving attendance and general well-being of children. Ethiopia has introduced school feeding program in all its primary schools with special attention to children coming from poor households. Similarly Ethiopia has reported that  "an inter‐ministerial framework is designed to prepare both parents and children for the transition to school and serves as one tool to improve the retention rates of children and their readiness (both psychologically and in terms of health) for  learning."  (National EFA 2015 Review Report)

Key  message 6: There is not one single intervention that will solve the complexity of the process of school dropout. It is important to take into account the possible externalities of different interventions.

Perhaps the only two policies that can be used to directly tackle the problem of drop out are on-time registration in Grade 1 and automatic grade promotion throughout primary school. Nevertheless, these policies alone are unlikely to lead to ‘meaningful access'  unless accompanied by general improvements in the demand and supply of primary education and importantly the quality of that provision. As discussed by Hunt (2008), late enrolment and high grade repetition are only two of the precursors of drop out. Irregular attendance and very low achievement are other precursors of drop out and these may have very different causes than late enrolment and repetition. In addition, the process of drop out is affected by a number of individual, household, school and community factors.  Individual and family factors, such as age, mother’s education, religion, and parents’ marital status, are all statistically significant factors affecting the probability of dropout, many with stronger effects for girls than boys.(Lioyd & etal 2000)

 Interestingly, different policies and interventions exist to help families overcome disadvantage and marginalisation. It is unclear however whether these policies and interventions have complementarities that can impact upon children’s completion of primary school.

Key  message 7: Location specific research can be instrumental in identifying appropriate policies and interventions. Some causes of dropout could be quite specific to a particular locale, hence, unless attempts are made to conduct specific researches the broad country or region level intervention will miss those details being short-sighted.

 

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[1] In an effort to improve transition and retention in schools, Ethiopia has an automatic promotion policy. This policy ensures that a student who attended class significant amount of the class time, after checked through a continuous assessment method, will be transferred to the next grade.