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Program Overview


Data from Timor Leste suggests that there are significant challenges for some groups of young children in accessing and staying in primary school. Among the four SDPP pilot countries, Timor Leste has the lowest primary Net Enrollment Rates for both boys and girls, at 77% and 74% respectively. Secondary Net Enrollment Rates are also low, with only about one-third of boys and girls enrolled.

Dropout rates from Timor Leste’s EMIS were analyzed by grade at the national level in order to determine the most affected grades. SDPP will target grades 4, 5 and 6, where dropout rates are highest and since end-of-cycle grades tend to have high dropout rates.

The project will work in the target districts of Ermera, Liquica, Bobonaro, Manatuto and Viqueque. SDPP’s implementing partner in Timor Leste is CARE.



Dropout Trends

Dropout Rate by Grade: 2009/10

Analysis of Timor Leste’s Education Management Information System (EMIS) shows that:

  • In-cycle dropout is consistently most acute at the primary level, with an average dropout of 6% compared with rates closer to 3% at the pre-secondary and secondary levels.
  • Grades 1, 4, and 5 have the highest dropout rates at about 7%.
  • Dropout rate in grade 6 is low as EMIS does not report students who leave school after completing a cycle as “dropouts”. However, the transition rate of 82%, between primary and pre-secondary cycle indicates that 18% of grade 6 students do not reach grade 7.

Dropout in Context

A situational analysis was conducted in three high-dropout districts 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 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students in the target districts—cited by at-risk students, dropouts, and their parents/guardians—are both economic and academic.

Economic reasons are the top three reasons cited:

  • Nearly 1/3 of the at-risk students, dropouts and dropouts’ parent/guardians cited the need to supplement income through household chores or domestic work.
  • About 60% of at-risk students and parents/guardians and nearly 40% of dropouts and parents/guardians cited school-related expenses

Students also drop out of school for academic reasons:

  • 19% of at-risk students and 16% of dropouts cited poor academic performance.
  • 16% of at-risk students and 11% of dropouts said they would dropout/dropped out because of grade repetition.
  • Chronic absenteeism is a major contributor to dropout.  30% of at-risk students and 42% of dropouts have missed more than 15 consecutive days of school; 39% of at-risk students and 29% of dropouts typically miss up to 4 days of school a month. Only 35% of parents have ever been contacted by the school about the child’s absence.
  • Bad behavior is a problem:  28% of dropouts had broken school rules; 17% had gotten into trouble at school; 13% had been suspended.

Other factors cited for dropout were: overage and marriage. Factors not frequently cited: pregnancy, lack of latrines, school safety, poor school quality, and migration.

Top Reasons of Dropout by Students, Dropouts, Parents/Guardians Top Reasons of Dropout by School Personnel, Local Education Officer
(LEO), Community

The Interventions

In agreement with the Ministry of Education, SDPP will target grades 4, 5, and 6 in five districts—Bobonaro, Ermera, Liquica, Manatuto, and Viqueque.  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 Pupil Social Support Program (after school activities)—were developed, consistent with the ministry strategic sector plan and replicability requirements.  Implementation is planned to start in June 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

Pupil Social Support Program (to increase attractiveness of education to students and motivate attendance)

  • Offer a menu of structured extra-curricular/enrichment activities to foster cooperative learning, enhance self-confidence and reinforce skills in basic literacy and numeracy through gaming
  • Engage teachers and facilitators 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 191 schools was selected (based on an anticipated dropout reduction of 5 percentage points). Only schools that have target grades, are accessible, have no other donor interventions and agree to participate in SDPP were included in the sample.

Schools were randomly assigned to treatment and control groups:  97 schools will receive the intervention while 94 schools will not receive the intervention and serve as the control group.

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