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Published in the 16-31 May 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Checking drop-out
By Ahmad Rashid Shervani

"Drop-out", in the context of schools, means the rate at which students keep leaving the school. Before going deeper into this problem, let us quickly take a look at the very serious, rather disastrous, consequences of excessive "drop-out". Please see the first Chart in which the effect of just 10% annual "drop-out" is shown. Out of 100 students in Class I, if just 10 drop out, only 90 may reach Class II. Then if just 10% or 9 drop out, only 81 may reach Class III. If 10% or 8 drop out, only 73 may reach Class IV. If 10% or 7 drop only 66 may reach Class V. Then, if 10% or 7 drop-outs at this level, only 59 or less than 60% of the 100 students may cross the primary school level. The education of more than 40% children may get throttled at the primary level. 

                Drop-out calculator



10% Class Strength 30%


100 10.0  I


II 90 9.0 II 70 21.0
III 81 8.1 III 49 14.7
iv 73 7.3 IV 34 10.3
V 66 6.6 V 24 7.2
VI 59 5.9 VI 17 5.0
VII 53 5.3 VII 12 3.5
VIII 48 4.8 VIII 8 2.5
IX 43 4.3 IX 6 1.7
X 39 3.9 X 4 1.2
PASS about 24 PASS hardly 1

Then what? If 6 drop out in VI, only 53 may reach VII. If 5 drop out, only 48 may reach VIII and if 5 drop out at this level, only 43 may pass VIII and reach Class IX. So, the education of more than half of the 100 who were in Class I, gets throttled even before what is called the Junior High School level. The problem does not end here. Out of the 43 who do somehow reach Class IX, if yet another 10% or 5 drop out, only 39 may reach Class X. Then comes the time to fill-up the forms for the X board examination. At this stage "drop-out" tends to increase. For the sake of simplicity, if we take only 10% "drop-out" at this level also, may be about 35 will actually appear for the X board examination. If 60% pass ( better than average ) just about 24 may pass X, less than one-fourth of the 100 we started with in Class I. 

And remember, 10% "drop-out" is by no means very high. In fact, schools with only 10% annual "drop-out" are considered comparatively better. Very few of our dear Muslim schools may be in this category. 

Then what about an average Muslim school ? Exactly. Let us take a school with 30% annual "drop-out". Please see the second Chart. Out of 100 students in Class I, if 30% drop out, only 70 may reach Class II, only 49 may reach Class III, only 34 may reach Class IV, only 24 may reach Class V and thereafter only 17 may pass the primary stage and reach Class VI. So, the education of 83% of the 100 who were in Class I, may get throttled somewhere in the primary stage.

Please do not sigh too sadly. Not yet, at least. Out of the lucky 17 who cross the primary level and come into Class VI, only 12 may reach Class VII, only 8 may reach Class VIII and hardly 6 of these may cross the Junior High School level and reach Class IX. So, the education of 94% out of the 100 who were in Class I, may get stifled before crossing the JHS level. And what of the very lucky 6 who do reach Class IX ? Out of these, 30% or 2 may drop out and only 4 may reach Class X. Even out of these 4, at least one is likely to drop out before the X board examination, only 2 or 3 may take the X examination. And, as the average pass in such schools is hardly 30% or so, the chance of even ONE farzand-e-tauheed passing X may be just about fifty-fifty. Now you may sigh as sadly as you like.

What to do then? Just sit and sigh sadly? Certainly not. The problem of unduly high "drop-out" in most of our Muslim schools should be tackled. Before tackling, it has to be understood. For that, it has to be studied. Unfortunately, to study anything we first have to see the facts, sort these out. The facts are there in every school but hardly anyone bothers to look at these. Reason(s) for each one student dropping out may be different. One student may be leaving school A to join school B. Strictly speaking, this should not be termed as "drop-out", it is merely shifting. 

This shifting may even be for a good reason, e.g., transfer of parents from one city to another or changing residence from one locality to another in the same city. But then it should normally be reciprocal, compensatory, i.e., if some students are shifting from school A, then some others should be shifting to school A also. In such a case, the parents will obtain a T-C. However, if this trend is one-sided, then it is likely to indicate that some parents are not satisfied with the academic standards in school A. However, even such shifting should not be termed "drop-out". It may be bad for the school but good for the student concerned. Properly speaking, "drop-out" should mean when a child is virtually giving-up studies. 

Again, there may be various reasons. The parents cannot afford to keep the child in school, the parents want the child to work and supplement the family income, the child is disinclined to study, and so on. I have seen the tendency in Principals and Managers of Muslim schools to club all such reasons together. That is why no effective steps can be taken to curb, or even to limit, "drop-out".

Broadly speaking, the first step is to study "drop-out" in a school. This should be done Class by Class. "Drop-out" for ‘earn money’ may NOT be in Class I. It is likely to start somewhere in Class VI or so when the child is capable of earning something. However, even in Class I, "drop-out" can be due to ‘cannot afford’. "Drop-out" due to ‘disinclination’ generally comes when the child has failed in a class and he feels awkward facing ex-class-mates who have gone on to the higher class, or when the child is week in studies and is constantly scolded for doing badly without any proper help to improve. Anyway, the cases should be sorted out and tackled. If no one even tries to find out how many dropped out due to ‘disinclination’, how many due to ‘cannot afford’ and how many due to ‘earn money’, then how can the problem be ever solved?

For instance, in U P, every minority child is supposed to get ‘minority scholarship’. So the problem of ‘cannot afford’ can be, at least partly, solved by this. Then only ‘disinclination’ and ‘earn money’ will remain. Strict enforcement of laws against child labor may help curb this reason for "drop-out". Then the only remaining reason, ‘disinclination’, has to be solved jointly by the teacher and the parents. However, if the Principal / Manager of a school have never even bothered to find out how many cases of dropping out in the school are due to which reason, then "drop-out" should, and most probably would, only increase.«

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