Report on Primary School Dropouts The Reasons Behind an Anthropological Investigation [part-3]




A dropout can be defined as a child who enrolls in school but fails to complete the relevant level of the education cycle (Dropout Problems in Primary Education – Some Case Studies, UNESCO, 1984). According to Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 2002, a dropout is somebody who fails to complete an educational course, usually at a college or school. A dropout can also be termed as a pupil who was enrolled in the beginning of the school year and has left before the end of the school year, and was not enrolled elsewhere (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, November 2004).

By reviewing the previous reports that have been conducted on the primary school dropouts of Bangladesh, it can be said that, in general dropouts come from very poor households. Most of the parents of dropouts are illiterate, so they are unaware and do not understand the value of education. Usually, dropouts come from large families with few earning members, so the earnings or the labour of the dropout are important for the survival of the family. Mainly, the opportunity costs, direct and indirect costs of schooling, poor performance in school, unsupportive school environment, etc. are the reasons behind dropouts in primary schools in Bangladesh.

Findings of the study:

According to the findings of this study, the major reasons causing dropouts are poverty, lack of awareness, socio-cultural reasons, poor quality of education, etc. Some of the basic information about the dropouts has been given in the following table.

Current age of the samples (years)






























Table 1: Basic information about the sample dropouts

Grade in which dropped out from school

Year in which dropped out


Grade 1

Grade 2

Grade 3

Grade 4

Grade 5




























Table 2: Basic information about the sample dropouts



500 – 1000


1000 – 1500


1500 – 2000


2000 – 2500


2200 – 2800


2500 – 3000



 Table 3: Basic information about the sample dropouts

The following table illustrates the factors that affected the number of sample dropouts:

Table 4: Various reasons influencing dropouts

Reasons behind dropping out

Number of dropouts

Direct costs of schooling


Hidden costs of schooling


Opportunity costs


Failing in exams


Repetition in previous class


Disqualifying for PESP


Lack of eagerness


Unsupportive school environment


Community attitude


            Although primary education is free, there are opportunity costs, direct costs and hidden/indirect costs of schooling which the poor families cannot afford. The opportunity costs of schooling include chore time, sibling care and foregone earnings of children. Most of the male samples helped their fathers in farming and while rowing boats, while the other female samples helped in household work. Dropouts who came from large families with low income had to do wage work to support the family. The hidden costs of schooling like clothes, pens, papers, etc. were also influential factors in causing the children to leave school.

            The school environment, teachers’ attitude towards students, etc. are major factors that affect dropout rates. Usually, teachers are sincere and treat the students equally, but some teachers favour their private students so sometimes, the students felt frustrated and were reluctant to go to class. The classrooms in the school had to accommodate more students than their capacity so it was very difficult for all the students to understand what the teacher during a class. The lack of education materials and late distribution of books also caused problems in studying.

            All of the 12 samples, their parents and many teachers agreed that to pass, one have to go for private tuitions. Since the classes are overcrowded, it is impossible for all the students to follow the teacher’s lecture, so the weak students have to go the teachers for private tuitions to study. If one fails to pass, he gets dropped from the PESP receivers’ list, so mostly the students who receive private tuitions are able to pass, and continue to receive PESP money. Some parents also complained that those who go to the teachers for private tuitions, they are able to get away with any forms of irregularities.

            To get money from PESP, a student has to have an attendance rate of 85% or more and to acquire 40% marks in the exams, but most parents and students were unaware of these rules, and they blamed the teachers directly if their child got disqualified from the PESP receivers’ list. It was found during the research that getting disqualified from receiving stipend caused the student to drop out of school in some cases.

            Another barrier was parental attitude and lack of support. Most of the parents are illiterate and so they cannot help their children in studying and does not understand the various rules of school. As a child ages both the direct and opportunity costs (for boys in the labour market and girls in the marriage market) increase, and the parents often withdraw the children due to these factors. There are other reasons like malnutrition, fatigue due to labour, illness, lack of role model etc were also seen in this study.


The economic status of a family is a crucial factor which decides whether they will send their children to school, and if they do that, whether their children will be able to continue it or not. Bangladesh ranks as one of the poorest countries in the world, with a GDP per capita of $350. The poor account for about 50 percent of Bangladesh’s total population, and 37 percent are counted among the “hard-core” poor, who live in the direst circumstances.[1]

All of the 12 dropouts belong to very poor families. The fathers of 7 samples are agricultural labourers (bodli/kamla) and works for daily wages. As agricultural work opportunities are seasonal, at other times they pull rickshaws, catch fish for selling, or row boats to earn a living. Their monthly income ranges from Tk. 1200 to 2000. 7 samples had more than 1 earning members in their family. The average incomes of these families vary from Tk. 2000 to 3000 per month. 2 of the samples are orphans, their mothers work as domestic helpers in rich households and earn about Tk. 300 to 1000 per month.

            Amongst the 12 samples, only one family had 3 members while the rest of the families had 5 to 9 members. None of the families of the 12 samples possess any agricultural land. Apart from the houses, the other assets were radio (3 families), goats (3 families), cow (1 family), and boat (2 families). Although primary education is known to be free, there are direct costs, hidden costs and opportunity costs of schooling which the poor families cannot afford.

Direct costs

Although primary education is declared as tuition-free, there are many direct costs like exam fees, enrollment fee; certain amount from the stipend money is also taken for various reasons. These expenses become a big problem for the poor households and it influences dropping out. Although the teachers said that education was totally free, the parents and the children said they had to pay an enrollment fee of taka 50, then there was an exam fee of taka 30 to 20, to receive new books they paid 5 to 15 taka according to the grade. Moreover, 20 taka was subtracted from the stipend money of each month. These costs were a cause of many parents annoyance.

The sad factor is that most of the parents did not know that these fees were not meant to be taken. They all thought that this was the rule. As they do not know their rights, they can never claim it.

Hidden costs

Hidden costs of schooling are clothes, pen and paper, note books, etc. all of the 12 samples and their parents said that buying clothes, pen and papers was a huge problem for them. All of the parents said that as they are poor people, these extra costs of schooling are unbearable to them. Almost all of 12 dropouts have missed school frequently due to failure in obtaining these articles. They feared that they will be punished if they go to school without pen or paper. Teachers said that children who come to school without pen or paper cause a lot of trouble because they are unable to do any class work and disturb the other students. So they are given punishment.

Clothes were another problem for the parents, especially for a girl. The school does not have any uniform but the children had to wear decent clothing. The parents of the girls said that a decent dress costs at least Tk. 60 to 100 which they cannot afford. All of the parents of the 12 dropouts said that they bought clothes, pens and papers with stipend money. But the problem with the stipend is that the money is given after 3 months and they spend the money in no time at all. Therefore, it becomes difficult for the parents to spend money on pen and paper.

A female parent (widow) said that once during her daughter’s exam, she could not buy the necessary pen, paper, etc. So, she was forced to beg some rice from different households and sold them for cash so that she could buy the required things.

To most of the parents these hidden costs are a big trouble and in fact the decision about children leaving the school has been largely influenced by this reason. All of the parents said that if school/ government supplied uniform/ clothes, pens, papers, etc., then that would be a big help.


Opportunity costs

The opportunity costs of schooling include chore time, sibling care and foregone earnings of children. The opportunity costs of educating children are higher in poor families because these families rely more on each member to contribute to the family’s economic survival.

     Opportunity cost was an important reason behind leaving school in the case of 9 samples, who said that they often missed classes because of various household works. All of the 6 male samples helped their fathers in the field at different times of agricultural cycles.

            The chief cultivated crops in the village were rice, potato, and chilli. From December to April the absence and dropout rates are higher because different jobs like the collecting of baby plant from the nursery, removing of weeds, cultivation of rice seeds, make soil loose and friable etc were done by all male samples. The boys who worked in the agricultural field worked in two phases. For working in the morning from 8AM to 1PM, they received 1 meal and 50 to 70 taka and for working from 2PM to 5PM, they are given 30 taka. In the rainy season a some of the male samples helped their fathers in boat rowing.

Girls and women are the unpaid household labourers. All of the 6 female samples’ labour in the household is an economic necessity because it frees others to earn outside. All of them had to do important works like collecting water and firewood, washing utensils, helping in cooking and taking care of siblings. Because of these reasons, parents were reluctant to spare their daughters for schooling.  

Dropouts who belonged to large families, less earning members and unstable income due to illness of earning members had to do wage work for cash. All of the female samples told that they had worked in rich households as domestic helps when their family needed cash or could not afford a satisfactory meal.

            The chart below shows the regular and occasional household works for students.

Work TypeRegularlyOccasionally
Sweeping floorYes
Dusting FloorYes
Look after young sibs (if any)Yes
Cleaning dishesYes
Washing clothsOwn clothes (Yes)All cloths from house (Yes)
Fetching waterYes
Tidy up (bed and house)Yes
Coating house with mudYes
Feeding poultry, duck, goat and cows (if any)Yes
Boiling, husking and drying paddy in harvesting seasonYes

Table 5: Household workload for students[2]


The above table shows the range of the earnings of drop-out children’s families. The income amount is unstable and fluctuates according to the seasons and job availability. All of the households of the samples owned less than 0.5 acres of land.

It is difficult for poor families to afford the opportunity cost of schooling because the contribution of their child’s labour at household work or earning is essential at certain times for the survival of their families. As a result, it causes poor attendance rate. This affects dropout as the school terms clash with the agricultural cycle and those who miss school over several weeks drop behind, teachers withdraw their books and they are disqualified for stipend, as a result, they ultimately abandon school.

5.3       INABILITY TO AFFORD PRIVATE TUTIONAll the 12 samples and their parents have mentioned that the inability to afford private tuition as a major cause for leaving school. At the beginning, this factor had not been given much importance, but later on, the factor of private tuition was found to be a very influential one. Only 3 of the fathers and 2 of the mothers have had previous schooling experiences. Sadly, none of them remembers anything anymore due to lack of practice. As a result, none of the parents can give any effective help to their children in their studies. Hence these parents have regarded the need of going to private tuitions as a very urgent one.

A parent said in this matter, “The teachers always complained that my child had not completed his homework, but what they did not understand was that since my child did not receive any help at home, he failed to do the difficult subjects. On the other hand, in the class, even if he didn’t understand something, he was scared to ask the teacher anything for the fear of being scolded. As a result, he got unsatisfactory results in his exams and thus left school.”

            Another parent said, “My child did not understand mathematics and English well. Since no member of the family was literate, he received no help from his family. Had he received private tuitions, he would have passed his exams, but it was beyond my reach.”

            All the parents agreed that if the teachers had taught the students well in the class, then the parents would not have to spend extra money to send their children for private tuitions. The parents even said that the teachers do this deliberately to earn money. The students who receive private coaching get promoted to the next class regardless of their results, so they do not get dropped from the PESP receiver’s list. As a result, only the children from rich families are able to continue their studies.

             And also, the students who study in private get their new books earlier than the rest of the students.

            On the other hand, the teachers said that since all the students do not have the same level of intellect or learning ability, it is unjustified to expect that all the students can do everything with the same efficiency. The teachers also said that they try their level best to teach the students properly, and whenever the serious and enthusiastic students inquire about anything, they answer their questions and try to make them understand even if they have to repeat the same thing again and again. However, the students who are not interested in learning do not ask any questions and when they are asked whether they had understood something, they say yes. In such a case, what will the teachers’ do?

            All the teachers’ admitted the importance of private tuitions. They said that since there are many students in one class, it is difficult to take care of every student. However during private lessons, more attention can be given towards each individual student. So, they learn things more easily and do well in their exams.

            One of the teachers said, “I understand that poor students cannot receive private lessons, but had they been serious, I would have given them some extra time after classes. But the weaker students avoid studying and they never admit that they do not understand something.”

            The teachers said that since they do not receive salaries for months and months, it becomes impossible for them to run their household without the money from the tuitions. They think that it is natural for students who receive private tuitions to do well in the exams. In this case, those students do not need any illegal help. The teachers also think that it becomes difficult for children of illiterate parents to do well in studies because they do not get any help from their family members.

            The students also think that it is essential for them to receive private lessons. Of the 12 samples, 8 think that the factor of not receiving private coaching is one of the reasons behind leaving school. They think that the teachers do not give as much effort in school as they give in their private lessons. 4 of the samples complained that the students who receive private lessons from teachers get different types of illegal benefits from them. One sample said that one of their classmates was the son of an SMC member. He was not very good in his studies and was irregular in school. But the teachers never told him anything and since he received private tuitions from the teachers, he never faced any problems. The sample also said that the boy got suggestions about the school exam questions from his private teacher which was a major factor leading to his good performance in the exams. The boy also got his stipend regularly and received his textbook earlier than the other students.

            All of the samples said with sorrow that the rules for receiving stipend were to be maintained strictly only for the poor students, although, the poor need the money more. The 7 samples who were not receiving stipend at the time of leaving school said that the regulations on the basis of which they were dropped were much loosened in the case of those students who received private tuitions. All of the 7 samples think that had they gone to the teachers for private coaching, then they would not have been dropped from the PESP receiver’s list.

            The 12 samples emphasized on other point which was the good behaviour of the teachers with their private students. For example, they are not usually asked anything and if they fail to answer any question, they are not scolded. If these students are absent from school for a long time, the teachers have a sympathetic attitude towards them, whereas they (the samples) are scolded and dropped from the PESP receiver’s list.

            Therefore according to the samples and their parent reactions, going to a private tutor is not only related to receiving textbooks early but it also influences their not getting dropped from the PESP receiver’s list.

            Also, the good behaviour of the teachers with their private students in contrasts to the discriminating behaviour with the other students become a cause of dissatisfaction and frustrations for many students, which is why parents and the students feel that the receiving of private tuitions is so much essential.

5.4       Unsupportive school environment

School environment has a huge impact on students mind. Factors like classroom environment, teachers’ attitude and support plays an important role in a student’s continuation of school. Children do not understand the importance of education immediately and if a child does not find the school environment friendly or supportive, then he may stop going to school no matter how hard his parents want him to go to school. This was the case for 3 samples whose parents were interested to send them back to school but the children would not. When these 3 children were asked the reason of not going to school, they were very reluctant to answer and all of them kept saying the same thing- I don’t like school (school bhalo lagena).

The parents of these 3 boys complained that they do not want to go to school and during school time they leave home saying that they are going to school but instead they play football in the field or play with kites. When the parents knew about it they were very angry and they tried everything from beating to accompanying them to school, but this didn’t work as because it was not possible for them to keep an eye on the children all the time. According to one parent –   ‘it must be something in school that my son does not like. I think he does not understand the lesson and therefore he is scared to go to school‘.

So the researcher asked the 3 boys what it was that they did not like about school and the answers were similar. They said about not understanding the lessons at all, especially English and maths. They were afraid of teachers and the punishments, which were obvious if they did not prepare the lessons. While talking about school they looked unhappy and annoyed. When the researcher tried to tell them about the importance of going to school and so whether they have any intention to go back to school, the boys stayed silent. One boy told the researcher that- “I don’t want to be educated; I will learn some other work instead. I don’t want to go to school to get punishment and because of that everyone called me a fool”.

All the other samples also hated the punishments. They were so afraid of the punishments that all of them missed school whenever they didn’t prepare the lessons, had no pen and paper or tore the books etc.


Physical Facilities:

The school consists of a medium sized playground. A toilet and a tube well is also inside the school but the lack of maintenance in all the aspects were clearly visible. The school building is made of bricks and does not have any electricity connection.

            The school has playing facilities and the students have not complained about it. The girls, especially the older girls avoided going to the toilet because it was at a distance from the school and was near the front of the school gates. So, they felt embarrassed to go to the toilet in front of everyone. As a result, they missed school for at least 4/5 days during their menstruation.

a)     Teacher’s attitude and support

The students have not complained much about the attitude of the teachers or their teaching skills. If they fail to prepare their studies, their teachers will beat them; they do not like it but they regard this as a normal thing. The children said that the teachers were sincere in teaching them but since maths and English seemed tough, they could not understand them well.

Some of the samples reported that the teachers favoured their private students. For example during the class period teachers gave a lot of attention to their private students. They were asked many times whether they have understood the lesson and they were given punishments rarely. These discriminations were frustrating to a lot of students and one of them said- “they (teachers) would have behaved the same with us if we could take private tuition from them, but as we are poor we cannot afford it.”

The teachers on the other hand were very unhappy with the students and their parents. The teachers said that the children do not learn any manner from their families and they talk and shout in the class all the time. Their parents send them to school just because they need the stipend money but they do not care about their children’s education at all. According to the teachers there is no point trying very hard to teach them because they are not interested to learn.

The teachers were very frustrated and extremely unhappy about their salary which is very low and which they receive very irregularly. One of the teacher said- “My family spent a lot of money for my education with the hope that I’ll earn enough to help them in future and now after all the hard work what do I get – a life of a poor man? There is no chance that my situation will be better in future, I have stopped hoping.”

Another teacher said- “Why should we shout our lung out for these disinterested children, what do we get for it? I have to relay on private tuitions money to run my family and no one understands our situation.”

The teachers agreed that they started their job with hope and enthusiasm but now nothing is left of it.

b)     Classroom crowding

The school classrooms are suitable for accommodating about 40 students. Class 1 and 2 have 70 to 80 students which causes problems for both the students and the teachers. The teachers said that they had to shout continuously for else the children sitting at the back would not be able to hear anything. The students said that they could not hear or understand anything if they sat at the back of the classroom. Usually 3 students sat in one bench but when the presence of students was high, 4 to 5 children sat in one bench.

This problem of classroom crowding was worse in the summer time because it is very hot and there is no electricity connection in the school. All of the samples said that it was tiring in summer season and they could not concentrate well in the class.

c)     Lack of education material

The lack of educational material has been mentioned by both the students and the teachers. All of the 12 samples have reported the problem of buying books and pens in due time. All of the samples said that they were given punishments if they did not take pen and paper in school and that is why they preferred staying absent when they did not have these things. On the other hand, the teachers have said that without books and pens, the students are not able to do any class work and they disturb the class. So these children are given punishments sometimes.

All of the 12 samples have said that they have received books after much delay. The teachers also said that they never received textbooks at the start of the year. The books come in 4 to 5 installments, creating many problems in distribution. In this case, changes in syllabus causes many problems. The teachers have complained that the students and their parents are unaware, so they tear their textbooks, that is why if students are absent for a long time, they take the books back.

5.5       Poor Quality of Education

One of the most important issues regarding primary education is the quality of education. It is very important that a child who enrolled in a school learns to read and write properly but often it is not the case and with drop-out children, the learning achievements are so low that a lot of them can be declared as illiterates.

          There are three major subjects in primary level which are Bengali, English and mathematics. Class 4 and 5 has two more subjects, science and social science (Shamajik Biggyian). Out of the twelve samples, only 4 can be called literate as they can read Bengali to some extent but even they get stuck with the joint letters. All of these 4 can read some simple words and sentences in English but has no clear idea about the meaning of them. All of the 12 samples can do simple additions, subtraction, but only those 4 children managed to do division and multiplication. 3 children who dropped out early were almost as bad as illiterates because they could not read a sentence in Bengali or English.

To get promotion to the next class, a student must pass in any two of the three subjects among Bengali, English and mathematics in the annual examination. The teachers said that they try their level best to enable a student to pass in their exams so that they can receive stipends. One of the teachers said that – “We(the teachers) try to promote poor children out of sympathy because they need the stipend money but we all realize that some of them doesn’t really deserves it as they haven’t learn anything”.

          The quality of education is concerned with various factors like teacher’s skill-motivation, students’ eagerness to learn, results and class performance of the students, education curriculum etc.

Teacher’s skill and motivation:

All 4 of the school teachers said that nothing is left of the enthusiasm and hope with which they started their jobs. Since they are employees of a registered school, they get lesser salaries than the government schools (Tk. 1950) and they do not even get their salaries regularly. So to survive, these teachers have to give private tuitions or find other alternative source of income. But since maximum people of the village are poor, many students cannot be found for private tuition. Thus, the teachers have to live a substandard life.

            The teachers said that since they have many problems of their own, and as the students are unenthusiastic in studying, the teaching becomes tiring and meaningless. The teachers have to work very hard to teach English and Mathematics. The teachers reported that while teaching English, at first, the students are taught rhymes, and then alphabets are taught. As a result, the students cannot understand anything. In this context, a teacher said that “When I recite twinkle, twinkle little star, the children stare at me blankly and they think what is all this our teacher is saying”.


Students’ eagerness to learn

3 of the samples did not have any interest in going to school. All of the 6 girls had more interest in learning than the boys. In the English classes, none of the children could understand anything and they felt irritated and intimidated. 8 of the samples said that during classes they felt hungry, sleepy and tired. This is because they could not eat adequate food and often did different tiring work at home.

            5 of the samples think education does not have any importance in their lives and these samples are very young ones. They felt especially bored while studying English because they could not understand anything and felt that it was unnecessary for them.

            The teachers said that the students do not have much interest in learning and they cannot understand anything easily. The teachers feel that the attitude of the parents is one of the main reasons for that; because the parents do not give any importance to education and therefore they are not concerned about whether their children are learning anything or not.

            The parents reported that after leaving school, 4 of the samples were angry and cried as well. These 4 children were the better students and wanted to continue school. 5 of the samples did not show any reaction and 3 of them were quite happy.

Students’ results and class performance

6 of the samples did not fail in annual exams but have failed many times in English and Mathematics. Among the rest 3 samples were repeaters as they failed in the annual exams. 5 samples had failed in exams and did not go back to school fearing to study in the same class again. The matter of repetition is very annoying to parents and this contributes a lot to dropping out from school. The parents say that if one cannot pass in the exams, it is useless to go to school and if this continues then it will take more then 5 years. They do not have the financial backup to send their children to school for more than a year in the same class. And also if a student fails, he is disqualified from the stipend program.

Non appealing education curriculum:

            Education curriculum has an important role to play in order to increase learning achievements. From the discussions with drop-out children it was clear that the text books were not very appealing to them, apart from the Bengali and social science text books were they found some familiar things. English and mathematics text books were very hard to them and they disliked these subjects. The samples said that they liked the rhymes and the pictures in the books. Unfortunately there was no interesting or innovative initiative which could create some sort of interest amongst the students. One of the teachers said that   –“while teaching the students addition and subtraction in the beginning of my job, I used some objects to make it easier to understand. Some times I drew pictures on the black board but now I just don’t have the energy or temperament for all this. What do I get for all my hard works and efforts? Living life in poverty and struggle took away my spirit for my job.”

          The drop-out children and their parents did not complain about the teachers’ skill or effort in teaching. This is possibly because the illiterate parents have no idea about it and also the children never experienced anything better. However the most striking discovery was that the children couldn’t give any clear answer when they were asked about the importance of education curriculum and how they are being benefited by it.

          Then the samples were asked to tell the researcher whether their school experience or knowledge have helped them in anyway in their lives, at first they all say that yes it is helping us a lot in our lives and education is very important etc. But after a few visits, the samples were more free and comfortable with the researcher and then a lot of them contradicted with their previous statements and said that actually there is nothing very useful in the school text books. Even though they liked some of the things in the books, it was clear that the school curriculum was largely alien to their direct needs.


In order to qualify for the stipend, selected pupils must maintain 85 percent monthly attendance and attain a minimum of 50 percent marks on the annual exam administered for each grade. To continue to participate in the program, a school must demonstrate at least 60 percent pupil attendance, and 10 percent of its grade 5 pupils must sit for the Primary School Scholarship Exam.

After PESP has been introduced, the enrolment rates have certainly increased but the information obtained during this research work states that most of the parents and students do not know the rules for qualifying for PESP. Most of them think that if poor children are enrolled in school, they will receive PESP. 9 of the parents enrolled their children to school because they thought that their children would receive money. Later, when their children got disqualified for PESP, it influenced their decision of not sending their children to school.

Due to various reasons, students from the poor households are the most irregular ones. The reason for absenteeism is primarily due to the inability to pay for school expenses and/or the need to work either at home or outside the home. However, in some of the cases, reasons behind absenteeism were temporary or chronic illness, disinclination for schooling, bad weather, flooding, etc.

During the rainy season the attendance was low as the roads were muddy and slippery and transportation was unavailable. During the bad whether some of them stayed absent as they didn’t want to damage their clothes. Two of the samples said that they had only two clothes, of which one was torn so they wore it in the house and the other one they wore in the school. They remained absent if the better cloth was wet as they couldn’t were the other one.

The direct and opportunity costs of schooling, cultural constraints and prejudices, and special needs of vulnerable children—prevent these children from going to school.

            Although primary education is declared as tuition-free, there are many direct costs like exam fees, enrolment fee etc and with this there are many indirect costs like pen, papers, clothes etc. Though the stipend money was a help to some extent to the poor families, it was distributed after 3 months and during that time whenever the family couldn’t afford the necessary equipments, the children remained absent. Although the stipend receivers said that they bought pen, papers, clothes etc, they also said they still missed school whenever they couldn’t manage them as they were given punishments.

Another reason for low attendance of the students was the opportunity cost of the child. Students frequently remained absent during different times of agricultural cycles as their labour was needed by their family. In the rainy seasons some of the boys helped their father in boat rowing so they stayed absent and because of this, they were dropped from the stipend receivers list.

            The students and parents were not properly aware of the rule that in order to receive stipend one must have an attendance rate of 85% or more. They all said that to receive PESP, one has to be regular in school. Also, another rule for receiving PESP is to achieve at least 50% number, but few of the students could say anything about this clearly. All of the samples and their parents strongly believe that since they are poor, they eligible to receive stipend because rich people can incur for the cost of sending their children to school.

            The parents expressed their annoyance about the rules of receiving PESP. They said that if this scholarship has been introduced for the benefit of poor students, then this should be distributed prior to their advantage. According to them, the rule of at least 85% attendance rate and 50% marks was just an excuse to deprive the poor of their rights. A parent said in this context – “In the rainy season, it is a big advantage if someone helps to row the boat. So, I did not send my son to school regularly in the rainy season. As a result, he was dropped from the PESP receiver’s list. As a result I couldn’t purchase his books, pens or clothes and he had to leave school. The teachers should understand that the poor need the money more desperately, so this cannot be a rule.”

            Another parent said – “During harvest period, there were many works in the house and as well as in the field, so I did not send my children to school. Consequently, my daughter failed in the exams. As a result, she was dropped from the PESP receiver’s list. This is very unfair because it can be seen that only the children of the rich people will receive stipend. This is because since the children of richer people do not have to work at home, they can attend school regularly and on the other hand, they can attain private lessons by using the money they get from stipend, so they can pass in the exams. Then how can the poor receive stipend?”

            All of the parents complained that the teachers showed biasness while distributing stipends. According to them, the students who take private tuitions from the teachers and the children of the rich and powerful people receive stipend even if they are irregular or have failed in exams. One of the parents said with anger that the strictness of rules happens only for the poor.

            On the other hand, the teachers accused the parents of being ignorant and greedy. The teachers also said that they (the parents) were fools. The teachers said that when PESP was first introduced, everybody received stipend, but now nobody wants to abide with the rules.

            A teacher said with much annoyance – “You see, ever since the introduction of PESP, the matter of receiving education has become unimportant because the parents and students are mainly focused on receiving the money.”

            Another teacher said that dropping out from the PESP receiver’s list is one of the main reasons for dropping out from school. Many of the dropouts have enrolled themselves in schools of nearby places so that they can receive money. Not only that, some parents even enrol their children in 2-3 schools at once to receive more money.

All the teachers said that the parents who send their children to school for money do not care about their child’s school performance. As a result, when their children are left out from the PESP receiver’s list, they come to school and create a very awkward situation. They directly accuse the teacher’s of being thieves and they further insult the teachers by saying bad things.

                     The teacher said with sadness that the job of distributing PESP is very tedious and time consuming, but after all this hard work, they only get the accusations of parents whose children have disqualified for PESP.

5.7       Socio–cultural reasons

Socio-cultural norms indirectly create pressure in achieving education, especially in the case of a girl child. The inhabitants of the village in which the research has been conducted were largely muslims. During the stay at the village, it was seen that mainly the women of the rich families maintain ‘Parda’ and wear borkhas when they go outside. The women of the poorer families have to work outside to earn a living and so they do not maintain parda strictly. Married women cover their head when going outside. After a girl’s menstruation, her parents become reluctant to send their daughter outside the house. This attitude is mainly because of the widespread fear of violent and sexual assault upon females. If a girl is violated then it will be a personal tragedy and it will also create an economical problem as the prospects of marriage will be damaged. Therefore the parents of daughters, especially poorer families always remain concerned about their daughter’s safety. For this reason, the practice of early marriage is still very much widespread in this village. The girls who are comparatively healthier to their age or have a fairer skin are likely to get married earlier because their parents remain worried about their safety and are desperate to give marriage to their daughters as quickly as possible.

a) Parental attitude and support

The parents of only 5 of the samples have had previous schooling experiences and they are also school dropouts. Out of the 12 dropouts’ parents, only 7 could tell anything about their children’s school performances. The mothers have sometimes inquired about their children’s studies. 8 of the samples have reported that their mothers and/ or elder brothers or sisters have encouraged them to go to school and to concentrate in their studies. But none of the 12 samples have received any effective help from any of their family members. Since the parents are themselves uneducated, they have not been able to help their children in their studies.

None of the parents of the 12 samples had admitted their children at school in the hope of making them highly educated because they knew that they were poor and higher education was far beyond their reaches. One male parent said –“I’ve sent my son to school for education and I hoped that someday he’ll be a well educated man and get a job… but this is just a hope, just like we all hope for better days in future. Reality is very hard and I know that I cannot possibly continue his study.”

8 of the parents are not interested in sending their children to school again in the future. 5 of the samples are currently earning a living and one is searching for a job. The parents of these children are not thinking about sending their children to school again. One of them said – “Yes I know that education is important but my earning is not enough to run my family and so I had to send my son to work. Now he can eat 3 meals a day properly but going to school did not bring any rice.”

When parents were asked if they thought education is important for the future of their children and if so for whom? At first all of the parents said that girls and boys both need education and that it is very important and that they don’t discriminate at all amongst their children. But later when other questions like what are your future plans for your son and daughter asked, then all of the parents said that boys should get priority in receiving education because the boys have to run the family in the future. On the other hand, since the parents have to give marriage to their daughters and have to account for dowry and other costs, they think that the education of girls is unprofitable. Those girls whose age is more than 12 years, their parents are eager to give marriage to them, especially the girls who have lost their fathers.

Most of the parents agreed that if they were in a better economic situation then they would definitely send their daughters to finish education. One male parent explained to the researcher like this- “look sister you are studying in a university because your father can afford it and he will not discriminate between you and your brother. After finishing your study you can get a job because it’s available in cities. But in a village it is not so easy for a girl.


b) Gender discrimination

Both direct and hidden costs lead parents to favour the education of boys rather than girls that is if any of their children are to attend school. The pressures of poverty are extreme and, given the patrilocal system obtaining, investment in a girl’s schooling tends to be seen as a loss since any benefit would accrue to her husband’s family. Furthermore, in advance of marriage, the girl’s labour would be needed at home in traditional female roles. If school is attended then direct costs arise in respect of such aspects as books and other materials, appropriate clothing, and transportation by water in the severe rainy season.

In rural areas girls’ labour in the home and on the farm is an economic necessity because it frees others to earn outside, and is valuable to the mother in terms of coping with a 5.00 am – 10.00 pm day of “life-long invisible work”. Girls and women are unpaid family labourers. The collection of water and firewood are heavy jobs and recent more intensive cropping by men has led to more post-harvest work for women. Many mothers cannot spare their daughters for schooling. Wage-work for cash is also essential to the survival of the family of the 2 female samples. It also affects drop-out as the school terms clash with the agricultural cycles and those who miss school over several weeks drop behind, despair and ultimately abandon school.

Traditional outside jobs for girls and women such as rice-milling are declining because of mechanization and even in low socio-economic groups men prefer women to take on jobs which can be done at home.

The pressure for early marriage was seen in the village where the research has been conducted. We have also asked them to identify the number students who got married in last two years. The reasons of early marriage are:

  • If parents find a suitable and appropriate groom for their girl
  • If the in-laws claim little or no dowry
  • If a student has an affair with someone (because in rural areas it is still socially unaccepted)
  • If someone reported their daughter is talking intimately with some men/boy
  • If parents die (mainly father) suddenly or became seriously ill
  • Incidence of eve teasing with their daughters
  • If girl is spoiling due to bad association[3]

2 of the female samples dropped out as they were teased by the local boys on their way to school. These girls left school as the prospect of their marriage will be damaged if this continues. Another girl had 2 elder sisters, both of them dropped out from primary school long ago and their father is desperate to get them married. For this a lot of money will be needed and in this situation he couldn’t afford the various cost of schooling of his third daughter as she was dropped from the PESP.

c) Community attitude and support

The people of this village are very pious and they think that school education is the trend of the new age. They think that receiving religious lessons is more important since it will help them in the afterlife. Maximum people think that it is foolish for children of poor people to receive higher education because there are no such job opportunities for them, and the people who have no certainty of their day meal will obviously send their children to work and earn money to run the family, this is reality.

After the menstruation of a girl, her mother doesn’t want her to go to school. Two of the sample girls have mentioned the problem of eve teasing. Both the girls were fatherless and as a result of eve teasing, their mothers were much worried for them. Their mothers said that society is not at all sympathetic to a fatherless girl; instead they’re always very cruel. The mothers also think that no one will stand beside them if they wanted to protest and if a girl is violated then she is often considered responsible for it. Lot of other community women agreed that in a rape case the victim often gets the punishment. This factor has largely influenced them to drop out from school. As one of the girls’ mother said that –‘I cannot take the risk; these boys can do harm to my daughter and also because of the eve teasing my daughter will have a bad reputation and this will create problems in her marriage.’

5.8       Lack of awareness

“Education maybe useful for the rich people but these things are not for the poor.”

 – one parent

            Most of the samples and their parents agreed with the sentence quoted above. During the first stage of questioning, everybody said enthusiastically about the importance of education but later on, their real attitude towards education came out. At first, everyone said that education is very important, without it, life is meaningless, etc. but when they were asked why they stopped their children from going to school, they gave many excuses and ultimately said that actually, it is not very profitable for the poor to receive education because they cannot continue studying for long. And also, there are not many opportunities for the poor to complete their studies and then get a decent job.

            When the researcher tried to explain to them the importance of education, on of the parents said, “Well, I understand the importance of education, but you cannot study if you are starving. To survive, you must eat food first, everything else come next”. But according to the children most of the parents, especially mothers generally gave enough encouragement and show adequate enthusiasm towards the education of their children. Drop-outs felt that their parents by and large understand the importance of education. Some children also said that students discontinue schools not due to parent’s lack of aspiration to education but mostly due to poverty and lack of awareness.

            All of the parents argued that if one cannot get decent jobs even if he is literate, then what is the use of being educated? The effort given behind education has totally been wasted. The minimum requirements for a job are to pass in SSC or HSC exams, which are not only a lengthy process, but also a very costly one. The poor parents said that they do not have the economic stability to continue the education of their children for 10 to 15 years. As the boys have to run the house in the future, they must go to work. On the other hand, the girls have to be given marriage, which is a very costly enterprise. In such a situation, it is a luxury for the poor families to send their children to school for 10 to 15 years.

            Parental education also plays a large role in determining children’s schooling and employment. Parents who are educated are more likely to understand the importance of schooling from their own personal experience and are more likely to send their children to school. For example, research found that personal education, especially a mother’s education, was an important determinant of school enrollment in Philippine households (King and Lillard 1987). Further a study in Nepal found that literate women were more likely to help their children with their homework than non-literate women (Bown 1990). Educated mothers also provide positive reinforcement of their daughters’ educational and occupational aspirations (Bach et al. 1985). Literacy also instils a sense of empowerment to those who hold it.[4]

            The few parents of the samples, who have had previous schooling experiences said that they have not been greatly profited due to going to school because to remember how to read, one must read regularly, but in their cases, lack of practice have caused them to forget a lot of the things they had learnt. Besides this, even if one did not go to school, he must know mathematics to do simple calculations. Everyone learns this type of calculations from daily experiences, so it is not very important to learn this at school.

The parents of 9 samples said that they had sent their children to school knowing that stipend money will be given to the poor children and 6 parents said that they had stopped their children from going to school because they had been dropped from the PESP receiver’s list. 8 of the parents could not say anything clearly about the rules for receiving stipend. They all blamed the teachers for disqualifying their children. All of the parents said that stipend money is supposed to be given to the poor students but if they make such difficult rule to obtain it, then how can they receive it?

All of the parents said that 20 taka is being taken by the teachers from the stipend money, and none of the parents knew that it is not meant to be taken. Most of them said that this is the rule, except for some of the parents and the community members who said that this was the expense of the arrangements of tea and snacks of the teachers and officials who brought the stipend money. Yet they also thought that this was a legal rule.

The same type of lack of awareness was seen in the case of other extra charges that are being taken by school. Five to twenty taka is being taken for various reasons such as exam fees, for receiving text books etc and the parents and the community members did not know that this was not a rule.

The illiteracy and lack of awareness of these parents and children was the main reason for not knowing their rights and therefore not to claim it. Most of these people do not have a clear understanding of the importance and the need of education, they don’t understand the rules of receiving stipend and therefore they also do not understand anything when their children disqualify for stipend. Most importantly the parents and the children do not understand that the stipend money and all the other incentives that government has taken are because the main purpose behind all this is to facilitate the learning achievements and retention of the students.

The main problem of the illiterate people does not have any clear concept and prospects of education. They took the opportunities like enrolling children in school for stipend, but could not continue it as receiving education was not their main target. Therefore, when their children were dropped from the stipend receivers list as they did not fulfil the criteria of the programme, the parents withdrew their children.

5.9       Other Reasons

There were few other factors that influenced the major reasons behind drop-out.

For example poor diet which causes malnutrition of the children affected their performance in the school. Numerous studies demonstrate that malnutrition, even with no clinical signs, affects intelligence and academic performance.[5] Students with the lowest amount of protein in their diet had the lowest achievement scores,[6] and those with iron deficiency demonstrated shortened attention span, irritability, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating.[7] Even moderate under nutrition (inadequate or suboptimal nutrient intakes) can have lasting effects and compromise cognitive development and school performance.[8]

Most part of the daily meal of the drop-out children contained carbohydrate. Pulse and seasonal vegetables were taken regularly but fish or meat was taken occasionally   and as a result they all suffered from certain extent of malnutrition. The samples told that usually they went to school after eating rice, rice crisps, banana, molasses etc and 7 of the children said that very often they had to take insufficient food and as they all suffered from short term hunger they felt hungry in the class, they felt tired and sleepy in the class. All of these children said they found it hard to concentrate in the study.

This factor contributed to the lack of energy, eagerness and concentration of the students. Children who went to school hungry said that they felt sleepy and hungry and this adversely affected their performance.

            The school of the research area did not have any FFE programme and many of the parents of the drop-out children said it will be good for them if government resumes FFE programme again.

Another reason which influenced lack of concentration and eagerness of students in the class is fatigue due to labour. Most of the girls did regular household works like sweeping and dusting floor, look after young sibs, cooking, cleaning dishes, washing clothes, fetching water etc. Two of the girls worked as substitutes of their mother whenever their mother was ill. Some of the boys helped their father in the field during various agricultural cycles and in the rainy seasons two of the boys helped their father in rowing boat.

Due to the labour, and as these children do not take sufficient and balance diet, they all felt tired and sleepy in the class and failed to concentrate in the lesson. So it was seen that the economic factors influences the performance of the students which affects the overall quality of education.

Another interesting finding was that most of drop-out children did not have any role model or future plan. They had to think very hard when they were asked that what they want to become in future. Most of them looked like this is the first time they had to think about it. The youngest two boys said they want to become football player or carpenter. Two of the girl said they want to do job, but they could not define what type of job they want. Most of the dropouts do not know what they can expect from future. The working dropout children have accepted their situation sadly as they understand that reality is hard. They also realize that they will have to remain what they are now unless some miracles happen and their economic situation is improved.

Report on Primary School Dropouts The Reasons Behind an Anthropological Investigation [part-1]

Report on Primary School Dropouts The Reasons Behind an Anthropological Investigation [part-2]

Report on Primary School Dropouts The Reasons Behind an Anthropological Investigation [part-3]

Report on Primary School Dropouts The Reasons Behind an Anthropological Investigation [part-4]