Human Resource Management

Report on Primary School Dropouts The Reasons Behind an Anthropological Investigation [part-1]

Report on Primary School Dropouts The Reasons Behind an Anthropological Investigation [part-1]




“The educated differ from the non-educated as much as the living from the dead”.                                                                                                            -Aristotle[1] 

            The importance of education in human development is not a new discovery. Education is the most fundamental human rights which is not only connected to measure of literacy but also related to a range of other indices including mortality, fertility, population growth, nutritional status and economic progress. The expansion of educational opportunity is a “win-win” strategy that in most societies is far easier to implement than the redistribution of other assets such as land or capital. Ultimately, education builds what Amartya Sen (1999) calls “human capabilities” – the essential and individual power to reflect, make choices, seek a voice in society, and enjoy a better life. Education, and particularly primary education, is a goal in and of itself, but it is also a powerful driver of progress toward the other Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)[2].

The denial of the right to education hurts people’s capacity to work productively, to sustain and protect themselves and their families. The core of mass public education, and hence the starting place for literacy for most of the world’s population, is primary education. Yet illiteracy begins as a sad fact of daily life for millions of children because education is beyond reach. Even many of those children fortunate enough to be enrolled may not complete their primary education due to various reasons. Over 150 million children in developing countries start school but do not reach grade five. These children are not emerging with the literacy, numeracy and life skills that are the foundation for learning throughout life. [3]

Although drop-out problem can be found at both primary and secondary levels, it is more crucial at the primary level because a secondary school drop-out has at least acquired literacy and some other educational skills and knowledge. He or she may more easily resume schooling, or take up training outside the system but the primary school drop-out often remains as illiterate and thus have further restriction placed upon a background of poverty and ignorance.

 Bangladesh has made some progress in basic education, especially primary education, during the decade since the adoption of international EFA (Education for All) goals in Jomtien Thailand in 1990. However, Bangladesh is yet to ensure universal primary education, and one of the persistent problems which have held back universalization of primary education is the early dropping-out of children from the schools. This represents enormous wastage of resources and contributes directly to the number of illiterates.

From the available statistical data, it can be seen that the drop-out rate in primary level is constantly remaining around 32 to 35 percent during last five years[4], despite the fact that a lot of incentives has been taken by the government and various donor agencies. As universal primary education cannot be achieved if drop-out problem persist, it has to be given priority and research should be done particularly on drop-out children to find out their problems and take necessary steps to solve them. This research therefore, is focusing on this problem and attempts to find out the reasons behind drop-out in a primary school from an anthropological perspective.


There are two major objectives of this study-

1.      Investigate the Reasons behind dropouts in a primary school.

The specific objectives regarding the first major objective is to find out the role of-

a)      Economic reasons behind dropouts

b)     Societal reasons behind dropouts

c)      School environment

d)     Overall quality of education

 2.      Evaluate the impact of government incentives to encourage primary education.

      The specific objectives regarding the second major objectives is to observe and evaluate –

a)      Programme performance

b)     Identify beneficiary and non-beneficiary groups.


Drop-out problem is identified as one of the major barriers in achieving universal primary education by many reports but yet the major research works conducted on the education sector of Bangladesh have given an overview of the existing education system and various aspects related to it, and drop-out problem came as a smaller segment of a larger work in most of these reports. The research works and reviews that have been done by the government highlighted the increasing enrolment rate but overlooked the poor retention and completion rate. Even in the non-government institutional research the drop-out problem didn’t receive the importance it should have had.

            As universal primary education cannot be achieved if drop-out problem persists, so it should be given the due importance in order to take the necessary steps to solve it. For this, research should be done mainly on drop-out children to find out about their problems which caused them leave school. This research therefore duly focuses on the problem and tries to find out the true reasons behind the drop-outs.

               The very few books and research that have been done on drop-out problem was mainly done by statistical methods like survey. No anthropological research in Bangladesh has been done on the topic, which is why this research is significant as it applies the anthropological methods and investigates the reasons behind drop-outs with a holistic approach. The data of this research is qualitative in nature which helps to understand the circumstance, background, experiences and the attitude of drop-outs, their parents, teachers and community members.

                Most of the researches on barriers of primary education were done only on the girls but this research has taken both boys and girls as samples in order to find out all types of barriers that contribute to the problem. The findings of this research can contribute in taking necessary steps to bring the drop-out children back to school again and can also help the government, policy makers and donor agencies in reformation and improvement of education system.


The biggest limitation of this study was the short space of time. An anthropological research needs a long time, but in this case it was not possible due to the time limits and economic constraints were also responsible for it.

            Secondly, the time during which the research was conducted was in the month of June, when it was the rainy season. So, the weather was very bad at times, making it difficult to reach target places. As a result, though the primary list of dropouts contained 20 names, only 12 could be interviewed due to the lack of transport and bad communication facilities.



A thorough literature review is vital for the success of any research project because it serves many purposes for the research. It supports the importance of the study’s focus and may serve to validate the eventual findings in a narrowly descriptive study. It also guides the development of explanation during data collection and analysis in studies that seek to explain, evaluate, and suggest linkages among events.

A thoughtful and insightful discussion of related literature builds a logical framework for the research that sets it within a tradition of inquiry and a context of related studies. The literature review serves four broad functions. First, it demonstrates the underlying assumptions behind the general research questions. If possible, it should display the research paradigm that under girds the study and describe the assumptions and values the researcher brings to the research enterprise. Second, it demonstrates that the researcher is thoroughly knowledgeable about related research and the intellectual traditions that surround and support the study. Third, it shows that the researcher has identified some gaps in previous research and the proposed study will fill a demonstrated need. Finally, the review refines and redefines the research questions and related tentative hypotheses by embedding those questions and related tentative hypotheses by embedding those questions in larger empirical traditions. [5]

The various books, research reports and documents relevant to this research have been reviewed to build the logical framework of this research.


          The following literature reviews have been done on reports and research papers.

1)       The report titled “Bangladesh Education Sector Overview” has been produced by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, in March 2002. It is a review of the education sector in Bangladesh. This study summarizes the current status, government policies, and progresses made in the Bangladesh’s education sector in recent years; identify and explain major issues and constraints in the development of education and factors contributing to the issues; and summarize major activities of non-governmental and foreign donor organizations and main lessons learned.

The objectives of the investigation were to (i) present the current status and government policies in education and progress made in the education sector in recent years; (ii) identify and explain major issues and constraints in the development of education; and (iii) summarize major activities of government, non-governmental organizations and external donor agencies and lessons learned from these regarding future development.

The part of the report about primary education was pertinent to the research undergone. The researchers stated that over the last 20 years, Bangladesh has made a significant progress in education. Primary school enrolment increased from 12 million to over 18 million during 1990-1998. Other parts of the education system also made an expansion. However, still one out of every five primary school-age children is out of school, nearly a half of new entrants to primary first grade are not of the official entrance age and of those enrolled, drop-out rate is high. Regional and gender equity issues and educational outcome problems (such as still high illiteracy) add to the challenge. The government, local community and non governmental organizations are striving to improve the education sector performance with support from external agencies.

       The main theme of the research was to find those areas in the Bangladeshi education sector in which the JBIC can contribute to improve the situation. For this, various recent discussions about development plans, strategies and outcomes, that have suggested strengths and weaknesses of the Bangladesh society and the economy, have been summarized, applying a framework of strength–weaknesses–opportunities-threats (SWOT) analysis. The characteristics of recent economic growth trends were noted. The mixed record in poverty alleviation and the government’s ambivalence about NGO effort in this area had been described. The opportunities for relating the education system and its sub-sectors to the goals of growth with equity and the broader aims of human development were recapitulated. Finally, the areas for international cooperation in educational development have been identified.

2)       The report under the heading “Current Situations of Basic Education in Bangladesh” has been prepared by Md. Badal Miah. The objective of the research work was to analyze the education system of Bangladesh, emphasizing particularly on the quality of education.  Here, the researcher has investigated different primary, secondary, etc. institutes and describes the situations within.

            About the primary level, the researcher discovered that although student enrolment is persistently increasing, but quality of education is poor. The researcher then classified secondary education into three levels: junior, secondary and higher secondary. Once again, the researcher identifies increasing enrolment rates but poor quality of education. Higher education has also been discussed in brief. Science education has been described elaborately and the facilities that different educational institutes provide for this study has been investigated as well. Finally, the special training programmes for teachers have been outlined and report is concluded by giving some suggestions for improvements to this sector.

The researcher Md. Badal Miah saw that student enrollment has increased over the years; however, the quality of education did not improve. Although there are some schools where good library facilities are there, but there was very little use of it due to lack of interest among the student. Some schools also have good laboratory facilities, but without the presence of laboratory assistant those equipment and chemicals are being wasted. Academic supervision, which is necessary to improve the quality of education, is fully absent in all the secondary schools and training institute. Recently, government is expanding its budget on education and trying to provide more facilities like computer, books, laboratory equipment but still they are not enough to fulfill the requirement.

3)       The report titled “Policy Brief On ‘Education Policy’ – CPD Task Force Report” has been prepared by the Centre for Policy Dialogue task force in August 2001. The report is a brief review of the education sector of Bangladesh at present. The main theme of the report is to analyze the education sector in Bangladesh and identify the key issues that need to be addressed.

The report is divided into four sections. The first chapter gives a brief introduction to the report and gives a highlight of the report. The second chapter analyzes the education sector of Bangladesh. At first, the structure, management and budgeting has been discussed. It is followed by a description of the different forms of education, which include primary education, secondary and higher education, etc. Much data representing the number of institutions, students and teachers from the years 1990 to 2001 have been included. The third chapter reviews the different important issues that need to be discussed. For example, under the heading of primary education, topics such as access, equity, quality, relevance and efficiency has been discussed. Finally, the report concludes by giving a list of steps that need to be taken immediately.

The issue about dropouts was discussed to an extent. About dropouts, the researchers said that “A sizeable number of children from very poor households were never enrolled in primary schools,   and many of those enrolled dropped out before completing the full five year cycle as their families depended on child labour for survival. Although there has been some reduction in drop out rate from 38 percent in 1995 to 35 percent in 1998, (Planning Commission, 2000) it still remains considerably high, and needless to mention that drop out rate is significantly higher amongst children from poorer households”.

4)       The paper “Incentive Schemes for School Attendance in Rural Bangladesh” was published by Sajeda Amin and Gilda Sedgh in the year 1998. The main objectives of the report are to review the effect of two policies on school attendance in rural Bangladesh.

The first one of them is a food-for-education for primary school children. The second one is a scholarship for secondary school female students. For the research purpose, the attendance rates were collected both before and after the programmes started. The last one is a programme by BRAC. BRAC schools are one-room classes of 30 students that give preferential enrolment to girls and to children from poor families.

The researchers came to a conclusion that the school enrolment rates and hence the attendance rates increased at a high rate as the schemes were introduced. The researchers compared the enrolment trends among the landless families with the trends observed among all families and found that it points to the role of the incentive programs in boosting school enrolment. They also found that after 1995, the proportion of older children in primary school declined considerably in all groups, reaching levels below those of 1992. These declines coincided with sharp increases in the proportions of children enrolled in secondary school during the same period. These trends suggest that one of the net effects of the incentive programs has been an improvement in the proportion of children in the level of schooling appropriate to their age.

Consequently, the marriages of the girls in that area were delayed. Evidence suggests that peoples attitude towards education is slowly changing.

5)       The report titled “Food for Education” prepared by the IFPRI in the late 2000 reviews the factors and different issues related to the government incentive scheme to increase school attendance.

The report consists of three topics under the headings background; facts on hunger, poverty, and education; and, results of evaluation: food for schooling in Bangladesh. The first chapter depicts the situation in Bangladesh. The general persisting poverty, factors related to schooling and the different incentives to improve attendance rates have been discussed. In the second chapter, a comparison between the general situations in Bangladesh with the rest of the world has been discussed. In the third and final chapter, the effects of the incentives have been discussed. The report is then concluded by some suggestions to improve the current situation.

            The IFPRI came to the following conclusions about FFE:

  1. FFE has been successful in increasing primary school enrolment, promoting school attendance, and reducing dropout rates. The enrolment increase was greater for girls than for boys.
  2. The quality of education is lower in FFE schools than in non-FFE schools, largely because enrolment is greater.
  3. Targeting is generally effective, but it could be improved. The program targets poor households. However, there are still some eligible households in FFE villages who are not in the program.
  4. FFE improves household food security.
  5. FFE alone does not improve the nutritional status of vulnerable household members.

The suggestions made by the IFPRI are:

  1. Include complementary financial and technical assistance to improve the quality of education.
  2. Combine FFE with school feeding to achieve better results.
  3. Improving target criteria.
  4. FFE should be broadened to include a preschool feeding program.

6)       The research paper “Human Capital Development and Operations Policy – Literacy and Primary Education” prepared by Kowsar P. Chowdhury is based on the educational sectors of developing countries.

            The main objective of the report is to identify the issues relating to illiteracy. In the paper, literacy has been defined at first and then the literacy status of different countries has been reviewed. The difference in literacy rates between different age groups, genders, regions, etc. have been included as well. The researcher then describes the reasons to eradicate illiteracy. Here, the researcher brings out some reasons which include the increased influence of parents regarding children’s employment and schooling economical and social development, etc. Education in the primary sector has been focused in particular, and the necessary steps to deal with illiteracy problems in this sector have been discussed as well. Finally, the paper is concluded by some suggestions regarding the roles of donor agencies, and governments in eliminating illiteracy in developing countries.

            To some extent, the problem of dropouts has also been discussed. The paper compares the enrolment rates and the dropout rates, and indicates the low retention rates. Some constraints that lead to low enrolment rates and high dropout rates have also been identified, which includes (I) in-school-factors, e.g. availability of schools, quality and efficiency, school process, etc. (II) out-of-school-factors, e.g. direct costs, opportunity costs and costs related to cultural demand.   

7)       Education research paper no. 09 prepared by an UK based organization DFID (Department For International Development) was published in the year 1993. The main purpose of the research was to find out the factors affecting female participation in education in developing countries.

The paper consisted of three chapters, namely context, factors and recommendations. The first chapter is a detailed description of the study area, i.e. Bangladesh. The team of researchers made a study on the educational system of Bangladesh and collected data on the enrollment rates in primary and secondary schools. Several teachers, parents and students were interviewed and their views about female education were taken. The second chapter is concerned with the actual topic, i.e. the factors affecting female education. The factors listed were differentiated into many categories including geographical, socio-cultural, health, etc. The government incentives for encouraging female education have also been included.

The third and last chapter is a list of recommendations made by the researchers suggesting how to improve female education after analyzing the situation in Bangladesh.

The chapter concerning the factors affecting female education was relevant to the research work being conducted. The geographical aspect states that the greater the distance of school from home, the lesser the number of female students. The rural/urban imbalance in provision, enrolment, drop-out and female literacy rates is very striking. The socio-cultural aspect states that the common deep-rooted beliefs that girls should stay at home and the discrimination between girls and boys are the key factors to female opportunities in education. Poverty has been identified as the chief economic factor in determining female education. Many other factors that include poor health, legal and administrative aspects have been discussed as well.

8)     The report titled “Primary Education in Bangladesh – Findings of the PSPMP: 2000” is a review of the Primary School Performance Monitoring Project (PSPMP) which was operated by the Government of Bangladesh in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in the year 1999.

The project was classified into three different stages, a six month first, phase followed by a twelve month second stage, and finally an eighteen month third stage. During the first stage, the project explored the situation of the primary schools in Bangladesh and developed a monitoring model. During the next (second) stage, the project piloted the model in 66 schools twice and refined it based on these experiences. The last (third) stage witnessed the replication of the model in a nationally selected sample of 150 schools and refined the model further. This report presents the findings of the third phase survey conducted in the year 2000.

According to the major findings of the study, the barriers of education are as follows:

  1. Lack of physical facilities.
  2. Availability of educational materials.
  3. Human resource inputs.
  4. Community participation.
  5. Enrolment and attendance of children.
  6. Teachers’ attitudes toward student potential.
  7. Rewards and punishments.
  8. Teachers’ qualities.
  9. Perceptions of parents and communities.

10. Educational materials in the classroom.

11. Curriculum of the delivery.

12. Involvement of the children in the learning process.

13. Relating lessons to life experiences.

14. Diagnosis of children’s problems.

15. Recognition of children’s views.

16. The classroom environment.

9)     The report titled “Dropout, Repeaters’ and Promoters’ Rates in Primary Education Sub-Sector in Bangladesh” has been prepared by the BIDS (Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies). The report was published in April 17, 1994. The research was conducted over the Dhaka, Chittagong, Rajshahi and Khulna divisions, and the data given are relevant for the years 1987 to 1992.

There are three main chapters in the report. The first chapter gives the sources from where the data have been collected. The second chapter analyzes the performances of students in terms of dropout rates, promotion rates and repeaters’ and compares them in context with regional and gender divides. Dhaka division has been declared a bad performer in terms of dropout rates. In terms of repeaters’ rates, Rajshahi shows the highest rates while Chittagong shows the lowest. And Khulna and Chittagong usually remained ahead of Dhaka and Rajshahi in terms of promoters’ rates. Finally, the third chapter provides an analysis of the investigation.

The main findings of the research are as follows:

  1. Participation rate (percent of eligible children enrolling in the school) is positively related with agricultural land holding and/or family income; similarly better-off households (with agricultural land and/ort household income) show lower dropout rates.
  2. Parental education (especially mother’s education-level) positively influences participation rate of the children and their retention rate.
  3. Among the school factors, more motivated teachers and life-skill-related curriculum, positively affect participation rate and retention rate of the children (as seen in the non-formal primary schools of BRAC and CMES).

10)The report titled “Assessing the Performance of Conditional Cash Transfer Programs for Primary and Secondary Education in Bangladesh” has been prepared by the IFPRI for the World Bank. The report was published on February 17, 2004.

The mains aims of the investigation were to analyze the impacts of the different conditional cash transfer programs on the primary and secondary education sectors. The information collected through this research would help the Government of Bangladesh to improve the policies for the education sector.

The paper consists of eight sections. Section 1 gives an introduction to the report. Section 2 discusses the stipend programs that have been introduced in the primary and secondary education sectors. Following it, section 3 analyses the information used in the investigation. Next, section 4 lists the main findings of the information collected from the village survey. Sections 5 and 6 presents the results of the quantitative analyses of educational attainment at the household and school levels. Section 7 contains qualitative information on the programs. The report is ended by presenting the conclusions for the policies in section 8.

After much analysis of the collected data, the researchers came to the following conclusions:

a)     Although the male population has a higher literacy rate than the female population, the rate of increase of literacy level for the female population is much more rapid.

b)     The gross and net enrollment rates for girls in the secondary level are much higher than those for boys (this could be interpreted as an indicator of the success of the female secondary school stipend projects). However, the overall enrollment rates for secondary schools are still very low.

The dropout rates for boys in schools under the female secondary school stipend projects are higher than those for girls. However, the dropout rates for girls in grade 10 are higher than those of that for boys.


          The following literature reviews have been done on books.

11)The book titled “GETTING STARTED – Universalizing Quality Primary Education In Bangladesh” Edited by A. K. Jalaluddin and A. Mustaque R. Chowdhury is a review of the conference on universal primary education that was held in Dhaka on 6 -10 August 1996. The book was published in the year 1997. The main aim of the conference was to examine the past performance of the primary education sector and to investigate the issues related to achieving universal primary education.

Different aspects of primary education have been discussed in this book. Both formal and non-formal education has been examined, and the different topics that come under it, for example the management, the annual budgeting, the different incentives and programs undertaken to increase enrollment and school attendance, etc.

A survey conducted by the BIDS states that dropout rates among the first graders varied between zero percent (in both sexes) in urban Khulna to 16.3 percent among the urban pupil of Dhaka. Among the fourth graders, the urban Khulna pupils again led the way by exhibiting a zero percent dropout rate (in both sexes) and the rural Dhaka pupil (both sexes) recorded the lowest performance with 7.5 percent dropout rate.

A. H. M. Sadiqul Haq in his article ‘Review of Primary Education in Bangladesh’ indicates that although enrollment rates continue to increase satisfactorily, the rate of dropouts still remains high. Dropouts are identified as wastage of the government incentives, and they continue to remain the biggest obstacle in attaining universal primary education.

12)The book titled “Bangladesh Education Sector Review – Volume I” is a review of the education sector of Bangladesh is prepared by the World Bank. The report was published in the year 2000.

The report is divided into a main report and two background papers. The main report consists of the findings from the investigation of the education sector. The first chapter is a glance into the future of Bangladesh in the year 2020. The next chapter gives a view of the education sector in 2020. The aims and possibilities for the future have been discussed and the necessary steps that need to be taken to fulfill this target have been focused on and the necessary measures to eradicate these problems have been discussed. The next chapter emphasizes on the secondary education sector and are concerned with private education, higher education, etc. and management of these sectors.

The first background paper examines the socioeconomic development and their implications for education. The next and concluding paper analyzes education finance.

The chief aim of the report is to identify issues and alternatives, and to stimulate debate about priorities. In the future, the report may also serve to be a basis for identification of future investment both for the government and for its development partners.

To accomplish the visions that the World Bank has seen for Bangladesh, the World Bank has suggested six steps that need to be taken immediately. They are:

i)        Build a stronger, wider and deeper foundation of basic education;

ii)      Reorient and establish secondary education on a more equitable footing;

iii)    Transfer vocational skill training to non-government providers;

iv)   Rationalize, reform and revitalize higher education;

v)     Vastly increase public financing of education; and

vi)   Manage the system better.

13)The book titled “Bangladesh Education Sector Review – Volume II” is the second volume of World Bank’s review of the education sector of Bangladesh. The report was published in the year 2000.

The report is divided into three parts. The first part is concerned with primary and pre-primary education. Different aspects of the sector have been examined. These aspects include the many characteristics, the strengths, the weaknesses and future plans and policies of the system. Dropouts have also come into focus. The report proclaims that the current rate of dropouts is 40 percent and steps to increase the efficiency of the education sector have been discussed.

The researchers concluded the following about primary education:

  1. At present almost 10 percent of children do not enter primary school at all. For the most part these children are from hard-to-reach poor families for whom the opportunity cost of attendance is too high. Among these are also children with disabilities and ethnic minorities.
  2. Forty percent of those who enter primary education do not complete the five grades.
  3. Student wastage (repetition and dropout) is high, with most students taking six years to reach fourth grade.
  4. Those who complete the five grades on average at about a third grade achievement level and lack essential problem solving skills.

The recommended solutions to these problems include priority attention to improvements in quality of education, increase local management, increase public investment, etc.

The second part of the report is based on non-formal education. The different issues related to it have been discussed and future strategies analyzed. The concluding part of the report is about secondary and higher secondary education. The characteristics, the strengths and weaknesses, government plans for the future, etc. of the secondary education sector have been investigated.

14)The book titled “Hope Not Complacency – State of primary education in Bangladesh 1999” prepared by the Education Watch in the year 1999 is a review of the primary education sector of Bangladesh.

The report consists of seven chapters. Chapter one gives an introduction to the report and outlines the objectives. Chapter two gives the findings of the report. Chapter three explains the methodology used. Chapters four and five provide data on different internal efficiency indicators. Chapter six describes supervision and the participation of the community. Chapter seven concludes the report. The annexes describe some of the aspects discussed in the report in detail.

The main objectives of the ‘Education Watch’ are to collect and publish reliable data on various education related indicators and to play an advocacy role for primary education in Bangladesh. This report deals with various indicators pertinent to ‘internal efficiency’ of primary education in Bangladesh.

According to the ‘Watch’, the rates of dropout at that time were 5.5% for girls and 5.7% for boys. The Watch also stated that the highest dropout occurred in Madrassas while the English-medium kindergartens and non-formal schools registered the lowest dropout. . This certainly implies that the form of education is related to completion rate.

15)The book “Education for All – National Plan of Action” has been published by the Primary and Mass Education Division of the Government of Bangladesh. The report was published in the year 1995.

The main aims of the report were to examine the education sector of Bangladesh. The progresses made in achieving universal primary education were to be focused on and future plans were to be suggested using the information and experiences in the education sector in recent years.

In the book, education has been identified as a basic foundation for human resource development. The major steps taken so far to encourage education have been included in the report and their impacts have been discussed. The increasing enrollment rates in the primary level have been marked and the measures to improve this performance were suggested. Various wastage indicators in the primary level have also been taken into account, to verify the internal efficiency of the sector.

According to the researchers, the completion rate for primary education has increased from 40.3 in 1991 to 69.8 in 2000 over the years. However, in contrast, the dropout rates have not decreased satisfactorily. The reasons behind it have been identified and the necessary steps to reduce dropout rates have been identified. The report is then concluded by discussing some factors and steps that can be taken to improve the quality of primary education.

According to the Primary and Mass Education Division, the major barriers to increasing enrollments and reducing dropouts are:

  1. Want of school within accessible distances,
  2. Shortage of classrooms and overcrowding,
  3. Shortage of teachers particularly female teachers,
  4. Lack of proper teaching and learning aids,
  5. Shortage of furniture, fittings, other school supplies,
  6. Lack of playgrounds, water supply, satisfactory toilet facilities, particularly for girls,
  7. Lack of equipments and supplies for the students, especially proper clothes for girls.

According to the researchers, these constraints must first be overcome to achieve universal primary education.

16)The book titled “Dropout Problems in Primary Education – Some Case Studies” has been published by the UNESCO in the year 1984. The book is essentially a compilation of the reports about the education sectors of different Asian countries such as China, India, Peninsular Malaysia, Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, Srilanka and Thiland. These countries have been taken as case studies and the backgrounds of the education sectors, the current situations of the dropout problems, trends, the actions taken to reduce dropout problems, plans and strategies, etc. of these countries have been discussed. Some recommendations for improving the situations have been included in the book as well.

Some of the main findings of the book include factors responsible for dropouts. Here, primary school facilities, the inadequacies of study materials, the lack of proper accommodation for students, etc. have been identified as the major internal factors. Among the internal factors, the economic and social conditions of the student family, parental illiteracy, malnutrition, parents’ land holding, rural and urban residence have been listed here.

The actions needed to eliminate dropouts have been discussed as well. The actions that have been given top priority by the government and NGOs’ are the provision of sufficient schools and learning teaching materials and equipment, the inclusion of adequate number of well trained teachers in the teaching staff, and the abolition of repetition.

About the actions taken so far by different countries, an important point have been made, which is that most of the measures taken to prevent dropouts were direct of indirect parts of a much wider scheme to enhance attainment of universal primary education. The report is then concluded by reviewing the overall performance of the countries over which the report had been conducted.

17)The book titled “Literacy in Bangladesh – Need for a New Vision” has published by the Education Watch in the year 2002. The main aim of the research is to establish definitively the baseline for the literacy status of the population in Bangladesh.

The report is divided into eight chapters. The first chapter is an introduction to the education system in Bangladesh and its current situations.  Chapter two briefly presents an international perspective on literacy. The context of EFA and lifelong learning for literacy is noted. The evolution of the concept of literacy and its different meanings are discussed. A brief historical sketch of literacy campaigns and programmes are presented. The need to place the literacy within a new common vision for literacy, basic education and lifelong learning, helping build the learning society, is underscored. Chapter 3 describes the methodology of the study, including the sample design of the national survey and the development of the literacy test. Chapter 4 presents the literacy status of the population based on the results of the national literacy survey. The socio-economic correlates of literacy are presented in Chapter 5. A socio-economic profile of the respondents based on the survey is annexed to this chapter. The relationship between education provisions and literacy are presented in Chapter 5. A socio-economic profile of the respondents based on the survey is annexed to this chapter. The relationship between education and literacy are presented in Chapter 6. The findings of the survey on uses of literacy skills and expectations about post-literacy programmes are described in Chapter 6. The findings of the survey on uses of literacy skills and expectations about post-literacy programmes are described in Chapter 7. Chapter 8 presents the summary of findings, conclusions and policy implications of the findings.

18)The book “Primary Education in Bangladesh” has been published by the Government of Bangladesh Ministry of Primary and Mass Education in November 2003.

In this book, overall situation of the Bangladeshi primary education system has been overviewed. At first, the background of primary education in Bangladesh has been discussed. A brief glance of the education system starting from the times of the British rulers till present has been taken. The various strategies that have been taken by the changing governments so far to increase enrollments and the achievements of the different Five Year Plans’ have been discussed. The major steps that have been taken so far are:

a)     Enactment of Compulsory Primary Education Law in 1990.

b)     Creation of a separate Primary and Mass Education Division in 1992, it was renamed Ministry of Primary and Mass Education in 2003.

c)     Introduction of compulsory primary education programme in 68 upazillas in 1992 and expansion of this programme all over the country in 1993.

d)     Formulation of a National Plan of Action (NPA) in the light of the Worl Conference on Education For All in 2000.

e)     Successive implementations of development projects to achieve the objective of primary education.

Finally, the future plans for the primary education have been discussed. The goals for the future include:

a)     Expanding and improving comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children;

b)     Ensuring that by 2015 all children, with special emphasis on girl, children in difficult circumstances and from ethnic minorities have access to and complete free and compulsory primary education of good quality; etc.

In general, the book emphasizes mainly on the successes and the achievements of the Bangladeshi governments. The negative factors like dropouts and repeaters have not been given much importance; rather, the positive signs over the last few years have been highlighted.

From the literatures that have been reviewed, it can be said that most of the reports on the investigations conducted by the GOB and other NGOs’ gives an overview of the education sector. Very few initiatives have been taken to investigate the situation of dropout problems, and even fewer research works have been conducted. Although most of the reports gave a small glimpse of the dropout situation, they were done as an insignificant portion of a much larger work. Most of the recent reports on dropouts provided quantitative data on dropout rates from surveys, but qualitative data about the reasons and factors behind dropouts were lacking.



3.1       Profile of the study AREA

The area selected for investigation is a village in the Matlab thana, in the district of Chandpur. The size of the thana is 131.69 sq. kilometers. In is situated at a distance of 17 kilometers by road from the zilla sadar. There are 8 unions and 98 wards in the thana. The number of villages in the thana is 131 and there are 37590 households (as per population census 2001). The male population is 108800 persons, and the female population is 110727 persons, with a total of 219527 (as per population census 2001). The literacy rate is 12.8% for males, 33.6% for females, and the overall literacy rate is 38.16%. The important crops of this than are paddy (Boro, HYV) and potato. In total, there are 30 hats/bazaars in this village.

            The village named Bakulpur[6] under observation has an area of 176 acres. There are 170 households in the village. In general, the houses have roofs made of tin and cement, but a few houses have roofs made of straw and bamboo. There are 490 males and 506 females, with a total population of 996. The literacy rate for males is 44.4%, for females, it is 34.5% and the total literacy rate is 39.4%.[7]

3.2  Sample Population of the Study

The 12 samples were selected purposefully according to their availability and consent. No statistical methods were used as this was a qualitative research. The ages of the samples were between 9 to 14 years and they dropped – out from school in last 3 years. There were 6 girls and 6 boys amongst the 12 samples.

3.3  Techniques of Data Collection

Methodology is “a body of methods, rules, and postulates employed by a discipline; a particular procedure or set of procedures” or “the analysis of the principles or procedures of inquiry in a particular field”.[9]

A research work is a methodical investigation into a subject in order to discover facts, to establish or revise a theory, or to develop a plan of action based on the facts discovered[10]. It is an investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws[11].

The term qualitative research means any kind of research that produces findings not arrived at by means of statistical procedures or other means of quantification. It can refer to research about persons’ lives, stories, behavior, but also about organizational functioning, social movements, or interactional relationships. Some of the data may be quantified as with census data but the analysis itself is a qualitative one. A qualitative research may be generally defined as a study, which is conducted in a natural setting where the researcher, an instrument of data collection, gathers words or pictures, analyzes them inductively, focuses on the meaning of participants, and describes a process that is both expressive and persuasive in language.

            Creswell (1998) defines qualitative study as:

 “Qualitative research is an inquiry process of understanding based on distinct methodological traditions of inquiry that explore a social or human problem.  The researcher builds a complex, holistic picture, analyzes words, report detailed views of informants, and conducts the study in a natural setting.”

            Qualitative research should not be viewed as an easy substitute for a “statistical” or quantitative study.  It demands a commitment to an extensive time in the field, engagement in the complex, time-consuming process of data analysis, writing of long passages, and participation in a form of social and human science research that does not have firm guidelines or specific procedures and is evolving and changing constantly.

Characteristics of a “Good” Qualitative Research

There are standards for assessing the quality of qualitative studies[12].  The following short list of characteristics of a “good” qualitative research is presented by Creswell (1998):

  • It entails Rigorous data collection: The researcher collects multiple forms of data, summarizes them adequately and spends adequate time in the field.
  • The study is framed within the assumptions and characteristics of the qualitative approach to research.
  • The researcher identifies, studies and employs one or more traditions of inquiry.
  • The researcher starts with a single idea or problem that s/he seeks to understand, not a causal relationship of variables.
  • The study involves detailed methods, a rigorous approach to data collection, data analysis, and report writing.
  • The writing is so persuasive that the reader experiences “being there.”
  • Data is analyzed using multiple levels of abstraction.  That is, the researcher’s work is presented in a way that moves from particulars to general levels of abstraction.
  • The writing is clear, engaging, and full of unexpected ideas.  The story and findings become believable and realistic, accurately reflecting all the complexities that exist in real situation.

There are many valid reasons for doing qualitative research. One reason is the conviction of the researcher based upon research experience. Another reason is the nature of the research problem. Some areas of study naturally lend themselves more to qualitative methods can be used to uncover the nature of persons’ experiences with a phenomenon, like illness, religious conversion, or addiction. Qualitative methods can be used to uncover and understand what lies behind any phenomenon about which little is yet known. It can be used to gain novel and fresh slants on things about which quite a bit is already known. Also, qualitative methods can give the intricate details of phenomena that are difficult to convey with quantitative methods. Qualitative research is done by researchers in the social and behavioral sciences, as well as by practitioners in fields that concern themselves with issues related to human behavior and functioning.

There are three major components of qualitative research. First there are the data, which as mentioned can come from various sources. Interviews and observations are the most common sources. The second component of qualitative research consists of the different analytic or interpretive procedures that are used to arrive at findings or theories. These procedures include the techniques for conceptualizing data. This process, called “coding”, varies by the training, experience, and purpose of the researcher. Written and verbal reports make up the third component of qualitative research. These may be presented in scientific journals or conferences and take various forms depending upon the audience and the aspect of the findings or theory being presented. For instance, someone may present either an overview of the entire findings or an in-depth discussion of one part of the study.

Qualitative research is multimethod in focus, involving an interpretive, naturalistic approach to its subject matter. This means that qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of, or interpret, phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them. Qualitative research involves the studied use and collection of a variety of empirical materials- case study, personal experience, introspective, life story, interview, observational, historical, interactional, and visual texts- that describe routine and problematic moments and meanings in individuals’ lives. Accordingly, qualitative researchers deploy a wide range of interconnected methods, hoping always to get a better fix on the subject matter at hand.

In an anthropological research, methodology of data collection depends on research topic, time, place and circumstances. To collect different types of data, more than one type of data collecting techniques can be used in a particular research.

In an anthropological research, different techniques can be applied to collect data, so the data is more authentic and which is why the acceptance of the findings of an anthropological research is increasing in comparison to other fields. The techniques that are most widely to collect data are as follows:

  1.  Observation and participant observation;
  2.  Informal interview and non structured conversational interview;
  3.  Genealogy;
  4.  Life history;
  5.  Use of key informant;
  6.  Case study method;
  7.  Taking photographs and audio visual recording;
  8.  Learning local language and use of interpreters;
  9.  Drawing maps and census;
  10. 10.  Projection and psychological methods;
  11. 11.  Semantic differential techniques;
  12. 12.  Use of documents;
  13. 13.  Taking field notes and use of diary;
  14. 14.  Combination of different methods.

Techniques used in this research:

In this anthropological research, various data collecting techniques were used in order to gather different and authentic data. The main data collecting techniques used were

1. Participant Observation

2. In-depth Informal Interview

3. Key Informant Interview

4. Informal Group Discussion

5. Case Study

6. Taking field notes and maintaining dairy


1. Participant Observation

Participant observation is the foundation of anthropological research. According to Pelto (1994) “Participation observation is a research methodology for human studies that places the researcher in direct contact with people in everyday life settings”.

The participant observer gathers data by participating in the daily life of the group or organization he studies. He watches the people he is studying to see what situations they ordinarily meet and how they believe in them. He enters into conversation with some or all of the participants in these situations and discovers their interpretations of the events he has observed”[13].

Developed mainly through the disciplines of cultural anthropology and qualitative sociology, participant observation (as this method is typically called) is both an overall approach to inquiry and a data gathering method. Participant observation is to some degree an essential element of all qualitative studies. As its name reveals, participant observation demands firsthand involvement in the social world chosen for study. Immersion in the setting allows the researcher to hear, see, and begin to experience reality as the participants do. Ideally, the researcher spends a considerable amount of time in the setting, learning about daily life. This method for gathering data is basic to all qualitative studies and forces a discussion of the role or stance of the researcher as a participant observer.

“The ultimate goal of participant observation is to generate practical and theoretical truths about human life that are grounded in the realities of daily existence”[14].

How the researcher conducted this technique in the field:

As this research is an anthropological research, participant observation method has been used.

During the 15 days stay at the village the researcher went to the residences of the dropouts in the morning and by closely observing and participating in the various activities of village people, the researcher got an idea about the life style and culture of the people of the study area.

2. In-depth informal interview

In-depth interviewing is a data collection method relied on quite extensively by qualitative researchers. Described as, “a conversation with a purpose”[15], in-depth interviewing may be the overall strategy or one of several methods employed in a study. Patton[16] categorizes interviews into three general types: the informal conversational interview, the general interview guide approach, and the standardized open-ended interview.

Typically, qualitative in-depth interviews are much more like conversations than formal events with predetermined response categories. The researcher explores a few general topics to help uncover the participant’s meaning perspective, but otherwise respects how the participant frames and structures the responses. This, in fact, is an assumption fundamental to qualitative research—the participant’s perspective on the phenomenon of interest should unfold as the participant views it, not as the researcher views it.

Interviews have particular strengths. An interview is a useful way to get large amounts of data quickly. Interviewing has limitations and weaknesses, however. Interviews involve personal interaction; cooperation is essential. Interviewees may be unwilling or uncomfortable sharing all that the interviewer hopes to explore, or they maybe unaware of recurring patterns in their lives. The interviewer may not ask questions that evoke log narratives from participants either because of a lack of skill. By the same token, responses to the questions of elements of the conversation may not be properly comprehended by the interviewer. And at times, interviewees may have good reason not to be truthful[17].

            Interviewers should have superb listening skills and be skillful at personal interaction, question framing, and gentle probing for elaboration. Volumes of data can be obtained through interviewing, but the data are time-consuming to analyze. Finally, there is the issue of the quality of the data. When interviews are used as the sole way of gathering data, the researcher should have demonstrated through the conceptual framework that the purpose of the study is to uncover and describe the participants’ perspectives on events; that is, that the subjective view is what matters. Studies making more objective assumptions would triangulate interview data with data gathered through other methods.

General interview types include structured, semi structured, informal, and retrospective interviews. Informal interviews are the most common in ethnographic work. They seem to be casual conversations, but where structured interviews have an explicit agenda; informal interviews have a specific but implicit research agenda.

            Informal interviews should be user friendly. In other words, they should be transparent to the participant after a short period of time. An informal interview is different from a conversation but it typically merges with one, forming a mixture of conversation and embedded questions. The questions typically emerge from the conversation. In some cases, they are serendipitous and result from comments by the participant. In most cases, the ethnographer has a series of questions to ask the participant and will wait for the most appropriate time to ask them during the conversation (if possible).

            Informal interviews offer the most natural situations or formats for data collection and analysis. Unfortunately, some degree of contamination is always present. However skillful the interviewer, certain questions will impose an artificiality. An experienced interviewer, however, learns how to begin with non-threatening questions deeply embedded in conversation before posing highly personal and potentially threatening questions and to develop a healthy rapport before introducing sensitive topics.

            According to anthropologists, “Interviewing in ethnography is by no means always non-directive. Often one may wish to test out hypothesis from the developing theory and here quite directive and specific questions may be required”[18].

            “Ethnographers do not decide beforehand the questions they want to ask, though they may enter the interview with a list of issues to be covered nor do ethnographers restrict themselves to a single mode of questioning. On different occasions, or at different in the same interview, the approach may be non-directive, depending on the function that the questioning is intended to serve”[19].

            In this context, the quotation of social scientist Theodore Caplow is quite fitting, “An unstructured interview has no fixed set of questions on fix wording in order of questions. This does not mean that respondents are interrogated at random. The questioning may be centered on a particular incident or topic, or it may be based on checklist of topics to be covered or on a list of questions that the interviewer modifies as he goes alone”[20].

            Sidney Webb and Beartrice Webb has said, “It is desirable to make the interview pleasing to the persons interviewed. It should seem to him or her an agreeable form of social intercourse”[21].

            Informal interviews seem to be the easiest to conduct. They do not involve any specific types or order of questions, and can progress much as a conversation does, following the turns of the participant’s or the questioner’s interest.


How researcher conducted this technique in the field:

In this research data was collected through semi-structured informal interviews with the dropouts, their parents and teachers. Interviews lasted from one to three hours. A checklist was used to avoid losing focus and to ensure that all relevant questions were asked. Questions were both closed and open-ended. A semi-structured questioner was used. Respondents were thus given the opportunity to express their thoughts on the topic of interest as freely as possible.

In a few cases, respondents allowed the tape recording of the interview but as all the respondents felt uneasy and nervous with it, tape recorder was occasionally used. When such recording was not possible, the researcher managed to take notes while listening to the respondent. Notes were reviewed the same day or the day after the interview, while the information concerning the case was still fresh in the mind of the researcher.

3. Key Informant Interview

During an anthropological research work, the anthropologist chiefly depends on the primary informant or key informant – with whom the researcher regularly maintains contact and receives important information. They talk to the researcher with a very cooperative attitude and they make the researcher acquainted with the social and cultural reality. When the researcher obtains data from the mass public, the key informant is the only one who assists to verify the validity of this data. They help the researcher by giving information related to his research topic. Hence, as the researcher obtains data in different stages about different topics depending on this information, he sometimes also takes the help of the key informants to verify the data collected from the mass public.

This technique is particularly useful for:

  • Involving residents in organization decision-making
  • Raising community awareness about health care issues
  • Learning minority viewpoints
  • Demonstrating to community leaders the organization’s interest in residents’ view
  • Gaining a deeper understanding of opinions and perceptions

When selecting key informants, researcher should strive to get broad-based community participation with representatives from different “sectors” of a community. Breaking a community down into sectors or groups will help you identify less obvious leaders and ensure a broad range of perspectives.

According to Ridge “The identification and selection of key informants available in a community may take some time to accomplish, since your knowledge of local culture must be sufficiently advance to be able to recognize the vital status, positions and you must have established personal relationships in your work that will allow you to approach such persons for their help in the study.”

The key informant interviews should be conducted in a comfortable and quiet setting. A well-ventilated and well-lit room with two comfortable lounge chairs facing one another would be the most desirable setting.

Before taking the interview, the interviewer should:

  • Warmly greet the key informant
  • Offer him or her refreshments and show them where to sit
  • Explain why the organization is conducting the key informant interviews
  • Explain who are key informants, what is a key informant interview, and what is the general nature of the questions
  • Assure the key informant of the confidentiality of the information
  • Tell them how long the interview will last
  • Ask if the key informant has any questions or concerns
  • Address their questions and concerns

                        While taking the interview of the key informant, a researcher may find himself engaged in a balancing act between actively listening to the key informant and accurately recording what they say. Unfortunately, there are no set rules for maintaining this balance, and what and how much the researcher will record during the interview will probably change with each key informant. Some informants will not even notice the recording of their comments, while others will find the note-taking quite distracting. The best advice is to observe the key informant and not allow the note-taking to intrude on the interview or interfere with the flow of the conversation.

During the interview, researcher should not feel compelled to spend an equal amount of time on each question with every key informant (or focus group) or even go through the entire questionnaire at all. Often, certain key informants or focus groups have expertise in certain areas. Researcher should allow them time to fully share their insights in these areas of interest or expertise.

                        If the researcher feel the need to have all participants respond to each question, then question guide can be followed, and when the researcher comes to areas where the participants seem to have added insights, politely interrupts them, promise to get back to this area in a few moments, continue following the question guide until it’s completed, then go back to those areas of expertise. Make sure to allow time to go back. This is an effective method for touching on all question areas while not sacrificing quality time in areas of expertise.

Throughout each interview, researcher should listen carefully for recurring themes, issues, opinions and comments, and highlight these in notes as they are raised, for this is the main reason for conducting key informant and focus group interviews. Remember, the object is to identify and prioritize issues most important to the community, and this requires separating widely held attitudes, beliefs and perspectives from the opinions held by a few.

                        At the end of the interview, researcher should ask the key informant if he or she has any questions, tell them how their comments will be incorporated with comments of other key informants to ensure confidentiality, and thank them for participating. Most organizations offer to provide a copy of the final report to each key informant.

Key informants and ethnographers must share a bond of trust. Respect on both sides is earned slowly. The ethnographers must take the time to search out and spend time with these articulate individuals. The fieldworker learns to depend on the key actor’s information – particularly as cross-checks with other sources prove it to be accurate and revealing. Sometimes key actors are initially selected simply because they and the ethnographer have personality similarities or mutual interests. Ethnographers establish long-term relationships with key actors who continually provide reliable and insightful information. Key actors can be extremely effective and efficient sources of data and analysis.

At the same time, the ethnographer must judge the key actor’s information cautiously. Over-reliance on the key actor’s information can be dangerous. Every study requires multiple sources. In addition, care is necessary to ensure that key actors do not simply provide answers they think that the fieldworker wants to hear. The ethnographer can check the answers rather easily, but must stay on guard against such distortion and contamination.

How researcher conducted this technique in the field:

There were two key informants who helped during this research work. One of them was a teacher in the school from where the samples had dropped out and the other was a community member.

            The key informant teacher was a male: he as one of the senior most teachers of the school, and he had been in the school since it was established in the year 1993. He provided the researcher with the list of dropouts and their addresses, and told the researcher about their backgrounds. He also provided the researcher with information about the infrastructure of the school education system and various school activities like SMC meetings, PESP distribution, etc.

            The other key informant was a local well – off farmer. He helped the researcher to understand the location of the dropouts’ houses and he gave information about the perspectives of the villages regarding matters like PESP distribution and various reasons behind dropouts.


4. Informal group discussion

Informal group discussion, as a qualitative research method with a definite goal, is essentially a group discussion taking place between people of more-or-less identical age, socio-economic status, sex and other common characteristics.

            Informal group discussions have been found to be very useful as a complementary technique to the collection of numerical data, especially as a means of gaining basic information to further implement quantitative research.

            Since informal group discussion is a qualitative research method which encounters complex and sometimes unpredictable human behaviour patterns when gathering in-depth information, it has to follow various steps, planned well in advance of conducting actual focus group discussions.

            The first step of conducting an informal group discussion is to set its objectives based on the methodological approach of the study and the nature of the program in question.

            Once the objectives of conducting an informal group discussion have been carefully specified, a detailed discussion guideline should be formulated well in advance of the actual session. The guidelines should not be considered as a structured or formal questionnaire. The proposed issues of discussion and their sequential pattern should never be rigidly fixed. There must be a great flexibility in the selection of the discussion issues so that the moderator can make an instantaneous decision to cover any relevant issue which may spontaneously be raised by the participants during discussion.

            The informal group discussions are usually held with people of identical age, sex and economic background. Group selection will, therefore, depend on the nature of the programme, objectives of enquiry, the target beneficiaries and personnel, including staff members of the programme. Sample groups are established by clustering the target audiences into different groups in accordance with the above criteria. The discussions are ‘focused’ on a specific, homogeneous group of people.

            The number of participants should be such that they can all properly participate in the discussion and present their respective view points and also allow the discussion to remain under moderator’s control.

            A three-member team is generally required for conducting a group discussion. One person will act as a facilitator, called the moderator. The other two people will act as participant rappoteurs who will document the whole discussion with a hidden agenda of helping the facilitator/moderator generate even and effective participation and helping channel discussions towards the objectives.

The researcher should tell the selected participants that the discussion is a part of an academic research study, so they need not be worried or frightened about any consequences.

During discussion, all participants should be treated equally so that they feel encouraged to present their views freely and spontaneously. It is better not to state all the main topics at the very beginning of the discussion. The discussion should start with a general topic and gradually lead to more specific items of discussion. The moderator’s function will be to raise the issues of discussion one by one and maintain a particular line of discussion. The rapporteurs shall record all common, uncommon and other expressed views.

How the researcher conducted this technique in the field:

In this research three informal group discussions were done with the drop-out children, their parents and the teachers. The group discussions were informal as the participants came willingly and they were never forced to speak. The researcher used a checklist so that the discussion does not lose it’s focus and relevant topics are discussed. There were two participant rapporteurs who helped the researcher by documented the views and opinions of the participants.

            The discussion with teachers was relatively easy as they were educated. Also there were only 4 teachers in the school, so it was not difficult to conduct the discussion. The drop-out children were initially frightened as they thought the researcher is someone from the school to punish them. But after a few days they were more friendly and free to answer the questions. 8 children took part in the discussion. The group discussion with the parents was done where 7 male parents took part and all of them were of similar age and economic conditions. Although some of the participants were more active, the others agreed or disagreed with them during the discussion on various topics.

The participants were assured that this was an academic research study, so they need not be worried or frightened about any consequences. As a result the participants felt free and comfortable to express their views. The researcher mainly raised the issues according to the checklist and let the participants speak freely about the topic.

5. Case Study

Case study is a research technique in which the informant provides a wide range of information regarding a specific event. When the researcher finds any significant information regarding a specific subject, the researcher identifies it as a case study and gives its description. In brief, a case study can defined as ‘a micro representation of a macro event’.

Creswell (1998) defines a case study as an exploration of a “bounded system” or a case (or multiple cases) over time through detailed, in-depth data collection involving multiple sources of information rich in context.  Some consider “the case” as an object of study (e.g., Stake, 1995) while others consider it a methodology (e.g., Merriam, 1998).

Procedures of case Study method:

  • The researcher needs to situate the case in a context or setting.  The setting may be a physical, social, historical, and/or economic.
  • The researcher needs to identify the focus of the study.  It could be either on the case (intrinsic study), because of its uniqueness, or it may be on an issue or issues (instrumental study), with the case used instrumentally to illustrate the issue.  A case study could involve more than one case (collective case study).
  • In choosing what case to study, a researcher may choose a case because it shows different perspectives on the problem, process, or event of interest, or it may be just an ordinary case, accessible, or unusual.
  • The data collection is extensive, drawing on multiple sources of information such as observations, interviews, documents, and audio-visual materials.
  • The data analysis can be either a holistic analysis of the entire case or an embedded analysis of a specific aspect of the case.
  • From the data collection, a detailed description of the case is done.  Themes or issues are formulated and then the researcher makes an interpretation or assertions about the case.
  • When multiple cases are chosen, a typical format is to provide a detailed description of each case and themes within the case (called within-case analysis), followed by a thematic analysis across the cases (called a cross-case analysis), as well as assertions or an interpretation of the meaning of the case.
  • In the final stage, the researcher reports the “lessons learned” from the case[22].

                In choosing what case to study, a researcher may choose a case because it shows different perspectives on the problem, process, or event of interest, or it may be just an ordinary case, accessible, or unusual. The data collection is extensive, drawing on multiple sources of information such as observations, interviews, documents, and audio-visual materials.

                From the data collection, a detailed description of the case is done.  Themes or issues are formulated and then the researcher makes an interpretation or assertions about the case.

How researcher conducted this technique in the field:

In this research, six case studies have been taken. This 6 were chosen because they show different perspectives of the dropout problem. In-depth interview was conducted with each of the dropouts, and more time was spent for interviewing the samples selected for case study in order to collect more detailed information.

            Most of the 6 cases had similar problems like poverty, lack of interest, lack of support from parents, etc. However, there were a few other cases who had problems like repetition, disqualifying from PESP, eve teasing, pressure for early marriage, distressed household, illness, etc. which were influential factors in causing them to dropout.

6. Taking field notes

Fieldwork means a lot of data collection and data analysis. And the researcher does this by taking different types of notes.

According to Hammersley and Atkinson, “Field notes are the traditional means in ethnography for recording observational data. In accordance with ethnography’s commitment to discovery, field notes consist of relatively concrete description of social processes and their contexts”[23].

            Field notes are the brick and mortar of an ethnographic structure. These consist primarily of data from interviews and daily observation. They form an early stage of analysis during data collection and contain the raw data necessary for later, more elaborate analyses. Many field note guidelines and techniques are available to assist ethnographers. The most important rule, however, is to write the information down.

            The researcher mainly writes down that information in his dairy that are related to the substantive and theoretical needs of his study.

            It is said that, “Keeping a set of methodological field notes will, therefore, allow the researcher to reflexive and to engage in some form of self-analysis during the research process, a procedure that has been followed by some social anthropologists [24] and which is to be recommended to all who engage in field research” [25].


How researcher conducted this technique in the field:

During the research work, the researcher interacted with many peoples, went to different places, observed various activities, and among those, the information which were relevant to the researcher’s substantive and theoretical needs were written into the researcher’s notebook.  The researcher managed to take notes while listening to the respondent. Notes were reviewed the same day or the day after the interview, while the information concerning the case was still fresh in the mind of the researcher. The field notes were later arranged into a systematic way so that the researcher doesn’t loose any important information. The different answers of each respondent to the same question were quoted serially in a diary as verbatim so that the analysis of the data becomes easier.


Every researcher comes across various experiences during the field work. This researcher was no exception. One of the main problems was that of the weather. Since it was the rainy season when the researcher started on her work, it was raining almost at all times. The constant rain made the village roads muddy, which caused transport mediums to become scarce. As a result, it became difficult for the researcher to reach the targets.

            The dropouts themselves were creating many problems as well. Most of the dropouts usually escaped when they heard that someone was coming to interrogate them. They were further terrorized by flying rumours that the researcher was actually a government official in disguise, who was going to catch them and then punish them for not going to school. Thus, it was very difficult to get hold of the dropouts.

            Another problem was that during the first few days of the interviewing, when the dropouts’ ware being questioned, parents and lots of other people surrounded them. This caused the dropouts to become nervous and made them reluctant to answer to any questions. Furthermore, when the dropouts ware asked a question such as ‘Did you ever miss school due to household work? (Yes) What work? If the dropout gave a positive answer, his parents were likely to shout at him and threaten him to beat him when the interview was over. As a result, the dropouts were forced to give biased answers to many questions out of fear.

            At the time of this research, many dropouts had already migrated to bigger cities in search of work. So, it became a problem to bring the incidence of child labour into focus.

            Apart from the problems, there were some happy incidents as well. The people were very cooperative and helped the researcher very much. The school teachers answered all her questions patiently and checked and verified many old school records to find out the name of dropouts. It was quite difficult to find the houses of the dropouts since the researcher was an outsider. However, it would have been more difficult if the village people had not helped. They eagerly helped the researcher by giving detailed description of the locations of the dropouts’ houses. The local people also answered all of the researchers’ questions with patience. Thus, it was quite enjoyable working in such a cooperative environment.

            When the dropouts were interrogated, they were given small gifts and chocolates, candies, biscuits, etc. The dropouts were delighted receiving them.

This was researcher’s first fieldwork in a village.  The village was very green and beautiful and it was altogether a nice experience working in that village.

Report on Primary School Dropouts The Reasons Behind an Anthropological Investigation [part-1]

Report on Primary School Dropouts The Reasons Behind an Anthropological Investigation [part-2]

Report on Primary School Dropouts The Reasons Behind an Anthropological Investigation [part-3]

Report on Primary School Dropouts The Reasons Behind an Anthropological Investigation [part-4]