INTER AND INTRA LINKAGES BETWEEN VARIOUS FACTORS
Drop-out problem is not caused by any single reason, in fact, a whole lot of different factors work behind it. These factors are also inter-related to each other and therefore one factor influences many other factors. For example, poverty has inter-linkages with many other factors that influences drop-out like quality of education, parental attitude etc. Poverty also has intra linkages with facts like direct cost, indirect cost and opportunity cost of schooling, early pressure for marriage.
As poverty is one of the major reasons behind drop-out, it has various linkages with most of the other problems. 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 because when survival is the issue, things like education is less important. Another problem was the hidden costs of schooling that are clothes, pen and paper, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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. All of these direct, hidden and opportunity costs are intra-linked with poverty, which causes poor attendance rate. This encourages dropping-out 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.
Poverty is interlinked with quality of education as poor families cannot afford private tuitions for their children. Apart from a few parents most of them were illiterate and they could not 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. All the samples agreed that students who took private tuitions performs in the class and does well in exams.
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 solvent families are able to continue their studies.
Dropping out due to disqualifying for PESP have been observed in this research amongst those households who sent their children to school after hearing about the PESP. During harvest period, there are many works to be done, so a lot of the children do not go to school. Consequently, many of them fail in the exams as they fail to catch up with the class due to absence. As a result, they get dropped from the PESP receiver’s list. So again the economic factors affect the situation because it can be seen that only the children of the well to do families can receive stipend. This is because since the children of solvent 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.
Poverty is interlinked to students’ eagerness to learn. As the drop-out children belonged to the poor households 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 so they felt hungry in the class. Some of the children had to do household works and they felt tired and sleepy in the class. All of these children said they found it hard to concentrate in the study. So the eagerness and motivation of the children of the poor households are affected by their economic condition.
The irregular and low salary of teachers influences their motivation to teach and forces them to depend on alternative income sources like private tuition. As a result they are obligated to favour their private students which create frustration amongst the other students. These children found school unfriendly and unfair. They become reluctant to attend school and as a result they miss classes and this causes poor performance in exams. All of these factors contributes to disqualifying from stipend program and finally leads to drop-out.
Societal reasons are also found to be affecting drop-out of children, especially girls. 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. Pressure for early marriage is also present as most of the community members agreed that this the safest option for the parents. Incidents of eve teasing were seen and sadly the societal pressure was on the girl as she will earn a bad reputation and her prospect of marriage will be ruined.
These types of societal pressures are interlinked with unsupportive parental attitudes, because all parents and especially the poor parents do not have much of a say in the society and they are the most vulnerable ones. So the parents of a girl child prefer marriage over education as that is safest option and also this is what the society expects them to do. So all of these different factors are interlinked with each other which affects dropping out of children.
IMPACTS OF PESP
7.1 BACKGROUND OF PESP
The most notable among the incentive programs undertaken by the government at the primary level were the Food for Education Program (FFE) and the Primary Educational Stipend Program (PESP). The FFE Program was launched in 1993 to increase the enrollment, persistence, and attendance rates of children from landless and very poor families. Forty percent of the children enrolled in primary schools in the targeted poor areas received a monthly allocation of wheat or rice for their family if they attended primary school regularly. To be eligible for receiving the food, the children were to be present at school for 85 percent of classes each month. A sliding scale increased the amount if more than one child per family attended school. Ultimately, the FFE was implemented in 1255 unions, covering 27 percent of the country. The World Bank’s 1998 Poverty Assessment found that the FFE did raise enrollment and attendance rates, and by 2000, the FFE program had covered about 27 percent of all primary schools in Bangladesh. Out of 5.2 million students enrolled in schools with FFE, about 40 percent received food grains (mostly wheat) through the program. About two million families benefited from the FFE program.
But there negative issues related to the FFE program as well. It suffered from high levels of leakage (it cost 1.59 taka to transfer 1 taka in benefits) and was poorly targeted (50 percent of the beneficiaries came from households above the lower poverty line). Increases in the price of the food commodities in 2001-2002 caused the government of Bangladesh to reduce the amount of food assistance, until the program was discontinued in June 2002.
However, universal primary education was still far from achieving. So, a new program, the PESP was introduced. The new Primary Education Stipend Project was designed to provide cash assistance through a stipend program to poor primary school pupils and their families throughout rural Bangladesh. The targeted beneficiaries of the PESP were an estimated 5.5 million pupils from the poorest households who were enrolled in eligible primary schools in all rural areas of Bangladesh (469 upazillas).
In order to qualify for the stipend, selected pupils were to 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. Households of qualifying pupils would receive 100 taka (about $1.76) per month for one pupil (not to exceed 1200 taka annually) and 125 taka per month for more than one pupil (not to exceed 1500 taka annually). Six designated national banks would disburse the stipends on a quarterly basis to authorized parents/guardians on a pre-determined date at the local bank branch or at a temporary distribution post (“camp’) established at a convenient location within 5 kilometres of the school site. Stipends would be disbursed to pupils’ parents or legal guardians who present the proper PESP bank-issued identity card. Preferences were to be given to issuing cards to the mothers of the selected pupil.
The new features of the PESP were:
- · Subsidies provided in cash, rather than in kind (as in the FFE Program) would ease transfer to poor recipients and would limit the involvement of school personnel in distribution (FFE required teachers to dole out the wheat and rice).
- Cost-effectiveness would increase as the government of Bangladesh can offer stipends to more families for the same cost and not be vulnerable to increases in food prices (as with the FFE Program that necessitated decreasing the amount of food provided).
- The stipend amount is fixed at a level that will significantly offset household poverty (unlike the 25 taka offered through the PES Project).
- The cash stipend is more flexible, so the family can determine its best use according to their needs—whether it is used for food purchase, school expenses or financing income generating activities (unlike the FFE Program where households often sold the food at less than market value to obtain cash).
- Disbursing the stipend funds to the mother will increase her power within the household and she will be more likely to spend the money to improve the children’s welfare (earlier programs disbursed to fathers or male household heads).
- Leakage will be reduced because (i) commodities (such as the FFE Program’s wheat and rice rations) are more liable to misappropriation and (ii) bank-mediated distribution eliminates scope for underpayment or kick-backs.
- Provision of stipends on a nation-wide basis (rather than in selected areas) will reach the poor families throughout rural Bangladesh who must restrict their children’s participation in primary school.
7.2 ProgramME Performance
The Primary Education Stipend Project (PESP) aims to increase the educational participation—enrollment, attendance, persistence, and performance–of primary school-aged children from poor families throughout Bangladesh by providing cash payments to targeted households.
The new Primary Education Stipend Project is designed to provide cash assistance through a stipend program to poor primary school pupils and their families throughout rural Bangladesh. The impacts of PESP in the research area are described below according to the official objectives of the PESP:
• Increase the enrolment rate among primary school-aged children from poor families.
The researcher found this objective successful to some extent because the statistics provided by the teachers show that enrolment rate has increased after the PESP have been introduced. The school enrolled the new students in only class one.
The numbers of enrolment of last five years has been shown in the table below.
Number of students enrolled in class 1
Total students of the school
Table 6: The number of students enrolled in class 1
• Increase the attendance rate of primary school pupils.
The PESP rationale is that regular attendance will improve pupils learning outcomes and contribute to good grades on exams. Attaining 40 percent marks will motivate the pupil to study and the pupil’s family to support his/her studies, by ensuing school attendance (not withdrawing for labour) and providing the necessary supplies and inputs. Combined these conditions are expected to lead to reduced repetition and drop-out and increased completion.
Meeting the attendance requirement on a monthly basis will determine the amount of the quarterly stipend disbursement. If a pupil does not meet the condition, the stipend will not be paid for that month. Classroom teachers record attendance daily, checked by head teachers. The 85 percent target is relatively high, compared with average primary school attendance rates that are reported to be 61 percent or below and even with the FSSAP which has a target of 75 percent.
This objective was not very successful as the attendance rate was very poor in the primary school were this research have been done. Teachers said that in general attendance rate is well below 85 percent. 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.
• Reduce the drop out rate of primary school pupils and increase the cycle completion rate of primary school pupil.
Unlike enrollment, persistence in primary school requires an ongoing household commitment that, especially among the vulnerable poor, is easily assailed by family circumstances (e.g. illness, death), the economy, and a host of other factors. The continuous payment of a stipend for the pupil’s entire primary school career—does provide both motivation and a monetary cushion for the family by helping to offset the opportunity costs associated with economic hardship that could pull a child from school. However, 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 stipend is not sufficient to meet these costs. In addition, considerations other than monetary—such as lack of interest in schooling, dissatisfaction with the quality of schooling, cultural imperatives to marry, etc.–may come into play that are not amenable to financial incentives.
Although primary education is declared as tuition-free, there are many direct costs like exam fees, enrolment 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. The number of drop-out children in last five years is given below.
Table 7: Number of dropouts in the last 5 years provided by the school
Number of drop-out children
Number of children completed class five
Total students in class five
Chart: The number of dropouts and completions during last five years
Although the dropout numbers provided by the school shows that dropout from school in class five is around 10 to 12, the researcher found that in reality the number was more than that as certain amount of underwriting is done so that the school remains in the PESP allotting list.
The PESP stipend does not appear to meaningfully offset the opportunity costs of child labour, averaging less than 5 taka per day or $2 per month. But, its ability to attract children from the labour market to school clearly depends on the situation of the family. It is unlikely that a desperately poor family would be able to forego the income or even the food earned by a regularly-employed child. However, in some cases the child may continue to earn a sufficient amount outside of school hours and during school absences tolerated by the PESP (15 percent).
The additional 25 taka per month for any subsequent children enrolled in primary school represents a much smaller contribution towards meeting the opportunity cost of schooling, and acts more as a reward to those households who have already made the decision to send their children to school than to encourage households to send non-attending children to school.
Since opportunity costs must also be added to direct costs of schooling to assess the real cost, families of working children may not be able to cover both the sacrifice of a child’s income or labour and the cash outlays for the direct costs discussed above. Both the direct and opportunity costs of schooling increases as the child ages and progresses in primary school, increasing the burden for very poor families. Consequently, the PESP stipend may not be sufficient to overcome the financial barriers to primary schooling in families where children must work constantly to increase household production or income or to feed themselves.
• Enhance the quality of primary education.
The PESP is least likely to be successful in improving the quality of education (as defined by learning outcomes and completion rates), because it places the entire burden of quality improvement on the child (maintaining high attendance) and household (purchasing educational inputs to ensure good grades), rather than on the teacher or school. First, failure to achieve is more often the result of poor instruction than of incapable students. Second, families targeted for support are poor, and it is far more likely that the stipend will be used to provide additional food and clothing for the family than purchase educational materials or tutoring for a primary school child. And while it would not be reasonable to expect a stipend program to also be a quality improvement program, the PESP may have negative consequences for educational quality of the 75-85 percent of primary school-age children already in school by diverting resources away from needed supply-side improvements.
The impact of PESP in the research area seemed to favour access over quality. The teachers said as the most of the parents who enrolled their children for stipend, they don’t worry about the quality of education; instead they want to receive the stipend money anyhow. This attitude can never help to improve quality of education.
• Ensure equity in the provision of financial assistance to primary school-age children and alleviate poverty.
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 (Bangladesh Human Development Report 2000, BIDS). That fifty-three percent of pupils in the primary education system come from poor households reflects the high demand for primary education among Bangladeshi parents. Ultimately, much of the success of the PESP in combating poverty and helping families deal with the direct and opportunity costs of sending their children to primary school will depend on the validity of the targeting mechanism and on the real value of the stipend in offsetting those costs.
Primary school-age children become eligible for stipend benefits if their families meet at least one of the following five targeting criteria:
¨ Children from a landless or near-landless household that owns less than half an acre of land;
¨ Children of day labourers;
¨ Children from female-headed households (i.e., a household headed by a female who is widowed, separated from husband, divorced, or having a disabled husband);
¨ Children from households that earn their living from low-income professions (such as, fishing, pottery, weaving, blacksmithing, and cobbling); and
¨ Children of sharecroppers.
At present, the targeting methodology does not appear sufficiently well-defined to ensure that the poorest families in Bangladesh benefit, but rather the poorer families relative to their specific locale (which may not be terribly poor).
With no clear-cut guidelines or empirical methods for identifying the poorest students, it is not clear how poor children can be identified. More over, a lot of community members and parents of the dropout children blamed the teachers and SMC members of deliberate biases and distortions. Almost universally, those interviewed said that SMC members and teachers complicit in giving favour to local elites and the non-poor in school admission and enrollment in the PESP or extracting some form of payment for consideration. Because the SMC members are generally members of the local elite, it has been told by the parents of the drop-outs and community member that they have a tendency to favour their own friends and relatives.
The stipend amount appears sufficient to cover the education costs of one child, but the PESP often employs a rationale that double- and triple-counts the stipend, by stating that it will offset direct costs, eliminate opportunity costs, and increase household income. It is unlikely that the stipend is adequate to address all three at the same time. It does not appear to fully recognize that the PESP will also cause the families—especially those with working children—to incur significant costs that may not represent a net gain for the household (at least in the short-term). The PESP may be too expensive for very poor households whose children are not already enrolled, as the stipend amount is not sufficient to pay for education, compensate for lost wages/production and increase household income as well.
Poverty impedes households’ ability to pay for school fees and/or other direct (e.g. textbooks) and indirect (e.g. “donations” for school authorities) costs that may be required for school admission or full participation in primary school. Poor households are more likely to need children’s labour for income-producing or cost-saving activities, and be less able to sacrifice the child’s time to schooling, resulting in frequent absenteeism and/or early withdrawal from school. The poor are more prone to disease and malnutrition than the non-poor. Poor health and nutritional status among young and school-aged children can result in illness and/or physical and cognitive impairment or delays, causing late enrollment, drop-out, absenteeism and poor learning outcomes.
Additional objectives (mentioned by MOPME officials):
Eradication of child labour and empowerment of women were the additional objectives. PESP could not eradicate child labour as it was seen that the samples 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 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.
There is no evidence of gender disparity in enrollment rates among the poor, but it is likely that girls who belonged to poor families are less likely to persist and perform in school than boys. But as there is a stipend programme for the secondary female students, girls are now getting the opportunity for higher studies.
Social Impact of PESP:
Irrespective of the PESP’s impact on primary education or its reaching the poorest 40 percent of families, the prevalence of poverty in Bangladesh is such that the PESP must be regarded as a positive move in improving social welfare, in that it represents a substantial redistribution or transfer of income from the wealthier sections of society to the poorer ones. Given the rural focus, it is seen that these cash transfers has some positive impact on the economies of small rural communities. As households spend the PESP stipend on commodities (books, food, clothing, etc) and services (tutoring, medical, etc.), the effects are rippling through the community, generating additional income for merchants and suppliers. Insofar as mothers are the stipend recipients, it is expected that they will have decision-making authority over its use and their economic prestige will be enhanced somewhat. The political and social impact is also positive as beneficiary poor families and community members appreciate the recognition of need and the benefits offered by the PESP.
But the major negative impact of this program is that those parents who sent their children to school after hearing about the stipend money, many of them withdrew their children when they were dropped from the stipend receivers list. These parents were unaware of the rules for achieving the stipend and they became angry and annoyed by the rules. They also claimed that rules are strictly followed in the cases of poor students and 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. Many of the parents said with anger that the strictness of rules happens only for the poor. Thus even though the stipend programme has increased the enrolment rate it has also became a reason for dropping out of children.
The people who have two or more children enrolled in school do not support the rule of Tk. 125 for two children. They feel that all of their children should receive Tk. 100 each. Some of the parents of the dropouts were very annoyed with this rule. Few dropout children had their siblings reading in the same schools as well, so the amount of money received from PESP due to this rule made the parents take different strategy. Although both children received stipend, many of these parents withdrew their eldest child from school and engaged them in work, while the other children continued studying as long as they receive stipend. It is difficult for a poor family to afford the opportunity cost of more then one child.
Matrix 1—Knowledge, attitude and perception towards the primary education stipend project
|1. Knowledge regarding the project|
|Selection criteria||For poor and regular students, in primary school are eligible for stipend||For poor and regular students|
85% attendance and at least 45% pass marks in each subjects in all exams
|Given to all poor and good students schools|
|Retention Criteria||Regular attendance and at least pass marks in all exams||Regular attendance and good result|
85% attendance and at least 50% pass marks in each subjects in all exams
|Regular attendance in school and good result|
|Disbursement Process||Distributed by bank officials or teachers to the students in school/nearby camps arranged for disbursement.||Distributed from school and received by students|
Distributed from school or camps arranged by UPO in the presence of headmaster, class teacher, and SMC members
|Distributed by school among students|
|2. Attitude towards the project||Beneficial for all especially the poor.||Helpful for all|
Highly beneficial particularly to the poor students
|Helpful for children|
|Adequacy of stipend amount|
|Not sufficient and should be increased|
|Inadequate for expenses of direct and hidden costs but still helpful|
Though inadequate but helpful for the very poor students
Though reasonable but takes a whole working day
|3. Impact of the project |
Increased, particularly for the poor students
Increased a little
Increased a little
Increased for all, and especially increased for poor students
Attendance is still the same amongst poor students but in general increased a little
Probably more regular than before
Incidence of early marriage
Support towards female education
Family pressure for marriage
Social pressure for marriage
Still the same
Same as before
Still the same
Still the same
|Less than before|
Higher than before
Still the same
Increased a little
Decreased a little
Still the same
|Decreased a little|
Higher than before
Still the same
Increased a little
Still the same
Still the same
|Decreased a little|
Higher than before
Still the same
Decreased a little
Still the same
|4. Problems regarding the project |
|Inadequate stipend amount |
Late distribution of text books
Late disbursement of stipend
Extortion of stipend money in forms of school fees and private tuition
|Inadequate stipend amount, |
Indirect cost of schooling (fees, uniform, cost of education aids),
Late distribution of stipend
Extortion of stipend money in forms of school fees and private tuition
|Inadequate stipend amount for the very poor students, |
Lack of training opportunities for teachers in the project
Late disbursement of stipend money by the government
|Inadequate stipend amount |
7.3 IMPACTS ON BENEFICIARY AND NON–BENEFICIARY GROUPS
Every incentive program has some advantages and some disadvantages, and its effects on various interest groups are different. The effects of PESP on the beneficiary groups (those who are receiving stipend) and on the non-beneficiary groups (those who are not receiving stipend) are different.
After interview with the parents of the beneficiary groups (those children who are receiving PESP), satisfactory reactions about PESP have been collected. All of the interviewed parents and the students think that PESP is a very profitable program.
Table 8: Stipend money usage according to parents
|Use of stipend money according to parents|
|Admission and session fees for school|
|Exam and other fees charged by the school|
|Sewing or replacing (a part) of school uniform|
|Private tutors payment|
|Buying textbooks, guidebooks, notebooks, paper|
|Making/buying jewelries for daughter|
|Tiffin and conveyance|
However, the people who have two or more children enrolled in school do not support the allocation of Tk. 125 for two children. They feel that all of their children should receive Tk. 100 each.
Some of the parents of the dropouts were very annoyed with this rule. Few dropout children had their siblings reading in the same schools as well, so the amount of money received from PESP due to this rule made the parents think of the PESP as not a very useful program. Although both children received stipend, many of these parents withdrew their eldest child from school and engaged them in work, while the other children continued studying as long as they receive stipend. The opportunity cost of more then one child is too much to bear for a poor family.
The teachers strongly criticized this type of parents. They said that these parents do not enroll their children to get them educated; rather, they enroll their children to receive the money of PESP. As a result, these parents do not want to follow any rules and they are ready to do all forms of cheating to receive more money. The teachers also said that those who have more than one children who of the age of schooling, they enroll their children in different schools in nearby areas so that each children receives Tk. 100. After that, if any of the children gets dropped from the PESP receivers’ list, then they enroll that child into another school so that the child starts receiving stipend.
The teachers also said that in some cases, the same student has been enrolled in 2/3 schools so that he could get the PESP money from all the schools. In this context, one teacher said from his own experience that once, he went to a neighbouring village primary school for some errand. On that same day, the PESP money was being distributed. Suddenly, one of the female parents hid her face and ran away from the school as she saw him. However, he had recognized that woman as a parent of one of the children of his school. After some investigation, it was found that the woman was taking stipend money for her child, who was an enrolled student in both of the schools.
On the basis of the information found from the teacher’s experience, the researcher asked the teachers that how was it possible for a student to receive stipend in 2/3 schools as according to the rules, 85% attendance was important to maintain the eligibility for receiving stipend? To this, the teachers replied that for the sake of humanity, many poor students were given present in the register books even if they were absent, so that they would be able to receive stipend money. In fact, the students have to so show their learning achievements as well as their attendance, so many forms of irregularities are done on the record books and registers.
The members in the beneficiary group said that they send their children for private tuitions, so they give the tuition fees from the stipend money. These parents also said that if someone goes to the school teachers for private tuitions, then receiving stipend money, passing in exams, attendance records, etc. matters become very easy.
For primary schools to continue to be eligible to participate in PESP and their pupils’ families to receive stipends, the school must:
• prepare a list of beneficiary pupils that passes the scrutiny of AUPEO, approved by the UPEO and countersigned by the UNO.
- • Demonstrate a minimum of 60 percent pupil attendance on an unscheduled (surprise) inspection day.
• Demonstrate that a minimum of 10 percent of grade 5 pupils appeared (“sat”) for the primary scholarship examination.
The PESP rationale is that by also holding the school responsible for pupil attendance and exams, the school will actively encourage the pupils to attend class and make efforts to redress any problems in these areas. Households and pupils will also be pressured in that if their collective performance causes the school to be disqualified, then they too are disqualified. In fact, since the school does not receive any official payment or reward for participating, then greatest losers will be the pupils and households from whom the stipends will be withheld.
If the school does not prepare a list of pupils that corresponds to PESP criteria or is not acceptable for some reason (e.g. ghost students, non-poor pupils), then the school can be permanently disqualified from participating in the PESP if irregularities are determined to have been done deliberately. If the school fails to show 60 percent attendance on the day of inspection an AUPEO, then the stipends for pupils at the school will be temporarily suspended until another unscheduled visit from a higher authority shows satisfactory attendance. Finally, if a school does not maintain a 10 percent sit rate for the Grade 5 exam, then the school will be suspended from the PESP until the next year when it must meet the target to re-enter the program. The exam records are recorded and maintained by the school, and reviewed by the AUPEO.
Due to these rules the teachers said that they try very hard so that they could fulfil the criteria of the PESP allocation. Some teachers said that few irregularities are done for the sake of the poor students who really need the stipend money and also there are pressures from the elites of the village. The teachers said that the children of the SMC members and elites of the village are favoured because they are powerful and most of these children take private tuition from the school teachers. Some of the teachers admitted that favouring the private students in receiving stipend or passing exams is unfair, but they have no choice as they depend on the income from tuition. The teachers claim that they receive nothing from this programme, and instead the stipend distribution process causes them a lot of extra work load like making list, distributing money etc, and for these works they have to remain long hours in the school after the school hours.
Different views and opinions were expressed by the non-beneficiary groups. Most of these parents were unaware of the rules for achieving the stipend and they became angry and annoyed by the rules. They also claimed that rules are strictly followed in the cases of poor students and 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. Many of the parents said with anger that the strictness of rules happens only for the poor.
The research work has been conducted with 12 samples. In most of the cases, the common reason for dropping out from school was poverty, lack of interest, no support from parents, opportunity costs, etc. In the case of girls, the problem of eve teasing and the parental pressure for marriage was also persistent. Mostly, the samples had similar problems; from them, the researcher has tried to illustrate some of the cases that are a little different from the others. Pseudonyms were given to the samples because of ethical reasons.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
The main objective of this study was to investigate the reasons behind drop-out in a primary school. The findings of this study suggest that various interlinked factors influences dropping out. Among these, poverty is one of the most pervasive factors in low persistence and attainment, and poor performance of children in primary school. Poverty impedes households’ ability to pay for school fees and/or other direct (e.g. exam fees etc) and indirect (e.g. clothes, pen, papers etc) costs that are required for school admission or full participation in primary school. Poor households need children’s labour for income-producing or cost-saving activities, and are less able to sacrifice the child’s time to schooling, resulting in frequent absenteeism and/or early withdrawal from school.
The irregular and low salary of teachers influences their motivation to teach and forces them to depend on private tuition. As a result they are obligated to favour their private students which create frustration amongst the other students. These children found school unfriendly and unfair. Also the educational curriculum was alien to their direct needs and they had no help in studies at home as their family members were largely illiterate. All of these factors make the students reluctant towards education.
Government incentives like PESP is successful in the sense that it increased enrollment but as a child ages both the direct and opportunity costs (for boys in the labour market and girls in the marriage market) increase, the stipend is not sufficient to meet these costs. The stipend seemed to assist those households whose children are already enrolled but unable to meet many of the expenses of primary education, but it is not enough to offset direct costs, eliminate opportunity costs, and increase household income. The other problem was when more than one child of a family received stipend, many of these parents withdrew their eldest child from school and engaged them in work, while the other children continued studying as long as they receive stipend. The opportunity cost of more then one child is difficult to bear for a poor family. Many of the children who disqualified for the PESP left school as it was no more feasible for them.
The unsupportive parental attitude towards education which influences drop-out was largely because of the lack of awareness and adverse circumstances. The main problem of the illiterate people is that the concept and prospects of education is very vague to them. They take opportunities as they come by and try to solve their problems temporarily, but they do not make any long term investments like educating children as they do not look at it as an investment. So the drop-out problem may continue unless their economic condition is improved and they realize education is important and it can help them in future. To overcome dropout problem, initiatives should be taken by the government and donors to improve the economic condition of the poor, increase and regularise teachers’ salary, increase the availability of school facilities and also initiatives can be taken to provide some extra facilities (e.g. distribution of food, clothes etc) to benefit the poor students.