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Program Overview


The dropout issue in India is of particular importance and interest. India has made extraordinary progress over the past decade in increasing access to elementary education, now reaching 96% of school-age children. Having brought so many children into school, particularly those from the most vulnerable groups, it is logical to turn attention to retaining them through the elementary cycle. The 2009 Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act will ensure that the norms, standards and conditions essential to accessible, quality elementary education are in place. Few countries have introduced such far-reaching reforms or demonstrated such commitment to education for all children, including those from the weakest and most disadvantaged groups.  Currently, India is a leading player in the UNICEF-UNESCO Out-of-School Children Initiative, which includes children at risk of dropping out of school as a focus.

SDPP will focus its dropout prevention interventions and activities in Bihar State. The State of Bihar has been a leader in the educational reform process in India. Its progress in implementing the Sarva Shiksa Abhiyan (SSA) has been recognized both in India and internationally. An article in the New York Times termed it a “turnaround state,” noting the improvements it has made in several sectors, including education.

Despite this, the Education Development Index (EDI)—which combines 23 key education indicators for primary and upper primary education—shows that Bihar State ranks last among the 35 states and union territories, with a score of 0.421 for 2009/2010.  More specifically, Bihar suffers from a high primary school dropout rate at nearly 14 percent (5th worst state/UT ranking), poor transition rate from lower to upper primary of 71 percent ( 2nd worst state/UT ranking), and moderate gross primary completion rate at 92 percent (11th worst state/UT ranking).

On May 10th, 2011 Bihar Government approved the Right to Education Act (REA) under which the children in the age group of six to 14 years will be imparted free and compulsory education. Both its pro-active approach toward education innovation and research and the severe dropout problem it is experiencing make Bihar State a prime candidate for the SDPP program.  Bihar also presents favorable conditions for implementation.  Most importantly, MHRD recommended Bihar as a project site and the Bihar education authorities are interested and willing to host the SDPP program.

SDPP proposes to focus its efforts on Grade 5, the terminal grade in primary school, based on its current analysis of the dropout problem in Bihar. SDPP activities will be implemented in Bihar by the local NGOs, IDEAL and QUEST.

Dropout Trends

Analysis of India’s District Information System for Education data shows that:

  • Grade 5—the terminal grade in the primary cycle—has the highest dropout (15.9%).
  • Grade 5 dropout exceeds dropout in other primary and upper primary grades by 53% (grade 1) to 189 % (grade 6).
  • Grade 6 and 7 dropout rates (5.5% and 5.8%, respectively) are lower than those of the primary grades, suggesting that students are less likely to dropout at higher grades. (Data not available for Grades 8-12).

Dropout Rate by Grade: 2009/10

Dropout in Context

A situational analysis was conducted in a high dropout district of Bihar state, reporting 27% Grade 5 dropout, to identify the factors and conditions associated with dropout, develop a profile of a child at risk of dropping out, and inform intervention selection and design. The top reasons of student dropout among 5th grade students in the target district—cited by at-risk students, dropouts, and their parents/guardians— are both economic and academic.

Economic reasons are the top three reasons cited:

  • About 55% of parents/guardians and about 60% of child respondents cited need to supplement income through household chores or domestic work. About 30% of the respondents cited need to work to earn money.
  • 30-40% of respondents cited school-related expenses (direct cost appear to be a greater problem for dropouts).

Students also drop out of school for academic reasons:

  • A cluster of school based reasons indicate that school does not provide a supportive environment for academic success or self-esteem.
    • Poor academic performance (9-10%)
    • Fell behind with lessons (5-8%)
    • Discouraged by teachers (14% particularly for dropouts); 46% criticized by  teacher
    • Did not like school (5-13% particularly for dropouts); 15% participated in school events, projects or clubs
  • Chronic absenteeism is a major contributor to dropout. The majority (55%) of dropouts and nearly half (40%) of at-risk students have missed more than 15 consecutive days of school over the academic year. 36% of at risk students and 61% of dropouts have missed 3 or more days per month. 40% of parents/guardians were not or seldom aware of their child’s absences.

Other factors cited for dropout were: illness and marriage. Factors not frequently cited: conflict, distance to school, too old, pregnancy, school safely, and lack of latrines.

Top Reasons of Dropout by Students, Dropouts, Parents/Guardians Top Reasons of Dropout by School Personnel, Block Education
Officer (BEO), Community Leaders

The Interventions

In agreement with the Bihar Education Project Council, SDPP will target grade 5 in 13 blocks of Samastipur district.

Key education stakeholders attended a design workshop to develop ideas for dropout mitigation through a consultative process. Two priority interventions—an Early Warning System and in-school Recreation/Enrichment Activities were developed consistent with the government’s strategic sector plan and replicability requirements. Implementation is planned to start in July 2012.

Early Warning System (to reduce student absenteeism and support at-risk students in school)

  • Use existing school level data on attendance, performance, behavior etc. to identify students at-risk of dropping out of school
  • Enhance the capacity of schools to address the needs of at-risk students
  • Strengthen the partnership between school personnel and the parents/guardians of at-risk students

Recreation/Enrichment Activities (to increase attractiveness of education to students and motivate attendance)

  • Program activities for unstructured SUPW (lifeskills) class to encourage students to participate in creative, entertaining activities (arts and craft, sports and games, reading and storytelling) that develop learning skills
  • Engage teachers and community volunteers to lead and facilitate the recreation and enrichment activities

Impact Assessment

Intervention impact on dropout will be assessed using randomized control trials. Outcome measures include in- and between-grade dropout, grade completion, promotion, attendance, and performance. Changes in student, teacher, and parental knowledge, attitudes and practices for dropout prevention will also be measured. Data will be collected and analyzed at baseline, mid-term, and end-line.

A sample of 220 schools was selected (based on an anticipated dropout reduction of 7 percentage points). Only schools that have target grades, are not flood prone, are accessible, have a playground, and agree to participate in SDPP were included in the sample.

Schools were randomly assigned to treatment and control groups:  113 schools will receive the intervention while 107 schools will not receive the intervention and serve as the control group.

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