School-in-a-bag reduces drop-out rates

Nov 28, 2011

A more flexible approach to teaching methods and better community support could reduce school drop-out in high HIV-prevalence areas in sub-Saharan Africa. Findings from a project led by London's Institute of Education and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Department for International Development (DFID) show that using new ways of encouraging young children to stay in regular schooling cut drop-out rates by 42 per cent in just a year.

Researchers used a package of measures to help , such as and the very poor, who were at higher risk of abandoning . Drop-out rates are higher at the end of grade one but to use these measures successfully, intervention starts in grade six. These included helping the do more of their schoolwork from home, getting local people involved in their , and helping schools become more inclusive.

The fact that many children do not complete a basic primary education is a major development obstacle for countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Governments in the region have committed to targets aimed at changing this by 2015 as part of the United Nations' (UN) Millennium Development Goal for Education. But the UN has warned that the targets could be missed unless more is done to help poor and vulnerable stay in school and move through the year grades.

"The success of the Malawi project shows that change is possible, if children and schools are given the help they need," said Professor Pat Pridmore, an international development specialist from the Institute of Education and the leader of the study. "In just a year, the schools and communities we worked with cut the number of children dropping out of primary school by almost half."

Professor Pridmore's team encouraged class teachers to keep a register of children who might stop coming to school and developed a 'school-in-a-bag' pack so they could keep up with their learning outside the classroom. These packs contained study guides, textbooks, pens and notebooks.

Vulnerable children were allocated a 'school buddy' to support them and encourage their learning. They were also invited to weekly youth club meetings where they could do their homework and get further help from youth leaders, who were also given a 'school-in-a-box' pack to help the children. These packs included books, games, a football and a wind-up radio. Professor Pridmore's team advised school managers on better ways to monitor attendance and attainment so they could more accurately identify the children at risk of dropping out. And they helped schools to introduce counselling and guidance sessions for children who were falling behind.

"There is potential to implement the measures that worked in this project at more schools in Malawi and to extend it across the region, but this will be difficult unless education budgets are increased", said Professor Pridmore. A rough calculation suggests that the measures used in Malawi would cost less than US$8 per child for a year. This is on top of the approximately US$20 per child currently spent on , one of the lowest amounts in the region.

"Our research shows that you can break patterns of educational inequality and disadvantage if you help vulnerable children while they are still at primary school. But it requires an integrated strategy, including better teacher education and national policies," said Professor Pridmore.

"The ideas that worked so successfully in Malawi need to be implemented as a package. If you try to cherry pick just a few of them to keep the cost down, or fail to adapt them to local needs, they are far less likely to be effective."

Explore further: No silver bullet: Study identifies risk factors of youth charged with murder

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Primary schoolchildren can be great tutors

Sep 14, 2011

Results from a project run in 129 primary schools in Scotland, the largest ever trial of peer tutoring, show that children as young as seven to eight years old can benefit from a tutoring session as short as twenty minutes ...

Gaining respect through the teaching of human rights

Nov 03, 2010

Teaching school children about their rights can reduce exclusions and bullying, raise attainment and improve respect between staff and pupils, according to new research carried out by education researchers at the universities ...

Recommended for you

Data indicate there is no immigration crisis

17 hours ago

Is there an "immigration crisis" on the U.S.-Mexico border? Not according to an examination of historical immigration data, according to a new paper from Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy.

Combating bullying in New Zealand

20 hours ago

Victoria University of Wellington's Accent Learning is rolling out a new bullying prevention programme for schools—a first for the Southern Hemisphere.

Why has Halloween infiltrated Australian culture?

22 hours ago

Halloween appears to have infiltrated Australian culture, and according to a University of Adelaide researcher, the reason for its increasing popularity could run much deeper than Americanisation.

The hidden world of labor trafficking

22 hours ago

When it comes to human trafficking, we often hear about victims being kidnapped or violently taken from their homes. But what about people who are forced into labor in the U.S.?

User comments : 0