In a pluralistic society, education is still a crucial instrument for empowering individuals and enhancing their economic, social, and personal well-being. Concerns about school dropout rates, particularly in developing countries, have long existed, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only made matters worse.
South Asian countries fare poorly in terms of school dropout rates. 13.54 million students drop out of school before even completing primary education. School dropout rates remain high in the three most populous countries, Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, with a total of 27 million children aged 5 to 13 years out of school. India has the most out-of-school children (OOSC), with 17.8 million, followed by Pakistan with 6.5 million.
To understand these statistics, we need to understand the reason behind them. Why do so many children drop out and refrain from completing their secondary education? There are quite a lot of factors involved, including
Socioeconomic Factors, especially Poverty and Child Labor
According to UNICEF, over 30% of children in South Asia live in poverty. Child Labor rates in South Asia remain high, with an estimated 5.7 million children working, limiting their capacity to attend school (ILO).
Education Quality: Insufficient Infrastructure, Inadequately Prepared Teachers, and Obsolete Curriculum
According to the World Bank, South Asia is experiencing a learning crisis, with 53% of children in grade 3 unable to read a simple paragraph in their native language.
Gender Disparities: Cultural Traditions and Early Marriages’ Impact on Female Students
According to UNESCO, South Asia has one of the largest gender gaps in education, with the area accounting for 80% of out-of-school girls. Early marriages remain a huge concern, with 21% of South Asian girls marrying before the age of 18 (UNICEF).
Distance and Accessibility: Remote Locations with few transportation alternatives
According to the United Nations, almost 60 million adolescents in South Asia's rural areas lack access to secondary school. Long distances to schools lead to the absence of 23 million South Asian adolescents (UNESCO).
Improving educational quality is critical in South Asia's quest for long-term development. We can establish a transformative learning environment that equips students with the necessary skills, nurtures their talents, and prepares them to confront the challenges of a rapidly changing world by using creative and evidence-based practices.
There are several ways we can promote quality education.
1. Improving infrastructure:
Improving infrastructure in disadvantaged areas necessitates a multifaceted approach involving governments, international organizations, and local populations. We need to conduct a thorough needs assessment to identify the needs of the students and the community while ensuring necessities like accessibility. Community involvement is also an important aspect of ensuring that social design is accurate. The spaces that they study in should foster their growth.
2. Providing scholarships and financial support:
Scholarships and financial aid for disadvantaged students are critical steps in providing access to a great education. There is a need for us to identify our target groups and then create plans to accommodate their financial problems. Governments can establish scholarship programs and financial aid schemes at the national and regional levels. We should also increase public-private partnerships to ensure that maximum financial aid is circulated, and donor contributions should also be encouraged. To ensure this runs smoothly. The selection process should be transparent and flexible. There should be awareness and guidance programs to support these.
3. Promote equality in education:
It is a fact that girls are denied their right to education more often. Raising awareness about the value of girls' education necessitates concerted efforts to reach out to communities and challenge strongly held ideas. There should be community workshops and seminars to discuss the importance of educating young women and advocating for their rights. We need to involve local leaders and influencers to voice their support for the same cause.
There should be student enrollment drives that specifically target girls to help them gain access to quality education. We need to encourage peer-to-peer awareness and address the cultural norms that encourage child marriages or inhibit women from accessing education. We can also collaborate with local NGOs to spread the word about the same. We need to target societal norms and encourage communities to gain an understanding of this overgrowing problem and its solution.
4. Mentorship programs:
The "Female Secondary School Assistance Project" in Bangladesh connected girls with successful female mentors, resulting in a 15% decrease in dropout rates (World Bank). Putting mentoring programs in place to provide role models and assistance for students entails several critical elements. We need to Clearly describe the mentorship program's goals, whether they are academic support, career guidance, personal development, or a combination of these, to create several programs. This involves identifying potential mentors and then thoughtfully matching these mentors with mentees. There is a need to Extend the mentorship program to reach students in underserved or remote areas through virtual mentorship platforms or mobile outreach initiatives. Providing mentor training workshops to equip mentors with effective mentoring techniques, active listening skills, and strategies for addressing mentees' needs is also crucial.
5. Providing training to the teachers:
Improving teaching methods and abilities through teacher training and professional development is critical for improving educational quality. There is a need to create a culture of ongoing teacher education and professional growth. Regular workshops, seminars, and in-service training sessions should be provided to keep teachers up-to-date on the latest teaching approaches and best practices. We should also train teachers in student-centered teaching practices that emphasize active learning, critical thinking, and problem-solving and encourage students to participate in their education. Feedback is a necessary component and should always be provided to teachers regularly.
6. Curriculum Reforms:
Implementing curriculum modifications to include relevant and modern subjects necessitates a deliberate and systematic approach. We need to conduct a curriculum review to identify outdated and irrelevant information. We must involve a wide range of stakeholders in the curriculum reform process, including educators, experts, parents, and students. Collect input and thoughts from these groups to ensure that the suggested adjustments are in line with the educational system's needs and also encourage a multidisciplinary approach to learning, where subjects are interconnected to offer a holistic understanding of real-world problems and solutions.
There are so many more ways to ensure that quality education is reaching the young minds of this generation and that they can take advantage of this to grow and educate themselves. We need to implement new policies that follow these essentials to reach every corner of our country and ensure that the children are getting the education that they need and deserve.
Dropout rates in South Asian secondary education must be reduced through a holistic approach that includes understanding fundamental causes, expanding access, encouraging inclusivity, improving education quality, and strengthening support networks. By solving these multidimensional difficulties, South Asia can ensure that every child obtains a decent education, paving the way for the region to have a brighter and more affluent future.
South Asia can overcome the obstacles posed by high secondary school dropout rates by focusing on evidence-based policies, collaborative efforts, and a commitment to guaranteeing an equitable and excellent education. By enabling students to finish their education, the region will not only enhance individual chances but will also create a way for long-term development and prosperity for future generations.