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Program Overview

Sothira Data CollectorsFor the past two decades, children’s access to basic education has been the major focus of national and international education development efforts. However, as more children enroll in school, but fail to complete it, school dropout has become recognized as a major educational challenge both in developed and developing countries. Although the pattern of dropout varies by country, the result is the same: increasing numbers of under-educated and unemployable youth. Reducing dropout is key to improving access to basic education, particularly in countries with relatively high enrollment rates where most school-age children who do not currently attend school have previously been enrolled in school.

The School Dropout Prevention Pilot (SDPP) Program is a five-year multi-country program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development aimed at mitigating student dropout from primary and secondary school. From 2010 to 2015, SDPP used an applied research program to pilot and test the effectiveness of dropout prevention in four target countries: Cambodia, India, Tajikistan and Timor-Leste.

In a three-stage process, the SDPP Program:

  1. Identified best practices in dropout prevention in the U.S. and developing countries (Result/CLIN 1);
  2. Analyzed dropout trends, policies and programs, and factors and conditions affecting dropout in each country; and
  3. Designed, implemented and rigorously assessed the effectiveness of interventions to prevent school dropout using randomized control trials. Based on its experience, SDPP has generated evidence and guidance for use by USAID and ministries of education on ways to decrease dropout and address the behaviors that put students at risk of dropping out.

SDPP was implemented by Creative Associates International with international partners Mathematica Policy Research (Mathematica) and School-to-School International (STS), and local partners Kampuchean Action for Primary Education (Cambodia), QUEST Alliance (India), and CARE International (Timor-Leste). In collaboration with ministries of education and through consultation with stakeholders, SDPP developed two interventions to address dropout in each country. In all four countries, SDPP introduced an Early Warning System (EWS) and a student engagement intervention to motivate students to stay in school.

Early Warning System: Dropping out of school is a process, seldom caused by a single event, which takes place over time. Students exhibit warning signs that they are having problems which may lead to dropout. An Early Warning System uses a framework to capture negative patterns of behavior – absenteeism, disengaged or disruptive behavior, weak academic performance – that put students in danger of dropping out and a process that triggers activities to support the at-risk student and halt the course of dropout. A low-cost system, it is implemented by schools, families and communities working together.

The Early Warning System has three components:

  • Identifying students at risk of dropping out of school using dropout predictors drawn from existing school data;
  • Enhancing school capacity to “track and trigger” first response strategies to address the needs of at-risk students;
  • Strengthening the partnerships between schools, parents and communities by raising awareness about dropout and collaboration on dropout prevention activities

Student Engagement Interventions: Not only are at-risk students “pulled” from school by household demands, they are often “pushed” out by chronic failure, critical teachers and unwelcoming environments. SDPP developed three student engagement programs aimed at motivating attendance, improving engagement, building learning skills, boosting self-confidence and peer support, and increasing enjoyment and interest in school.

  • Computer Labs offering weekly computer literacy instruction to Grades 7-9 students in Cambodia.
  • Enrichment Programs offering creative and fun before-, after- and/or in-school activities in art & crafts, sports and games, reading and story-telling to students in Grade 5 in India and Grades 4-6 in Timor-Leste.
  • After-school Tutoring Program offering one-hour daily tutoring sessions in key subject areas to Grade 9 students at risk of dropping out in Tajikistan. Tutoring sessions are followed by one-hour of recreational and leisure activities
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