Saturday, October 28, 2006

Primary School Enrollment Drops

In the midst of all the debate regarding higher education in Malaysia, we musn't forget that other aspects of educational policy are important as well. This recent report in the Star caught my attention. It referred to the "Education For All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report 2007" issued by UNESCO which noted that 'Malaysia lost ground in its primary education enrolment during the period under report, falling from 98% in 1999 to 93% by 2004'.

I've always assumed that Malaysia had achieved 100% (or almost 100%) primary school enrollment rate for quite some time. The fact that this % has dropped to 93% is certainly worrying.

According to the EFA monitoring team's policy analyst Dr Nicole Bella, 'She said this could be attributed to the increase in the number of children of school-going age, as the total enrolled in primary education nationwide had remained the same, at about three million.' In other words, the number of children attending primary school has not changed by much but the number of children of primary school going age has increased.

It highly likely that the drop in primary scholl enrollment is due to children from marginalised families not attending school. Indeed, the report cites as much - 'In Malaysia’s case, it cites the difficulty of attracting and retaining marginalised children as a reason for the high number not reaching the last primary grade or moving on to secondary school.'

But my question is this - if 'at risk' or 'marginalized' children were attending primary schools previously (when enrollment was at 98% or higher), why are less of them attending primary school now? Have there been changes to the economic condition of marginalized families which have forced parents to take their children out from the primary school system? Are these marginalized children more likely to be from immigrant families who don't have the same expectations of sending their children to attend primary school as other Malaysians do?

Although not discussed often in this blog, the statistics for drop out rates after Primary Six and after Form 3 are pretty scary especially for a country that has aspirations to become a fully developed nation by 2020.

A consequence of this will be a growing section of an 'underclass' which will be denied ample employment opportunities and might be forced into illegal activities such as crime and drugs.

There are no simple, clear cut solutions to this complex problem but a good start would be to identify the symptoms and causes of why such a phenomenon is occuring and why it is becoming more serious.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if the report consider children who opt to study overseas such as Singapore. Being a Johor kid, I understand that Malaysian student constitute about 30% of the enrolled population in most of the bordering school in Woodlands, Singapore. Let alone those who study in some of the better school in Singapore. About 40 buses are bringing children into Singapore for primary and secondary school education.

Anonymous said...

I think Singapore being the reason is a bit far to be discussed at the moment, even though i wouldn't disagree with it. Rather, we concentrate on the situation in the country first.

If i am not mistaken, the number of private/international schools have increased for the past years. So i wonder does the statistics refer only to government schools or everything in the country? If it is only refering to goveernment schools, then i guess i can understand why, else something is really not right here.

Anonymous said...

Who are the underclass, marginalized groups, I wonder. Primary education is free for all in Malaysia, so is secondary education, so it would be interesting and useful if someone can conduct further study on this matter.

Anonymous said...

one more case for the "X FILES"

Chen Chow said...

I would think that it is more likely due to some statistical issues, that we are having a drop in primary education enrolment. It is hard to believe that in recent years, we have more and more people not attending primary 1. Anyone who has a good indication of the situation at rural areas?

It could be due to that the government is calculating school-going children through number of child borned, but for enrolment, it could be just the government school enrolment. And hence, those who went for private and international school, as well as those who went studying in Singapore, might be termed as not studying.

Anonymous said...

If you read the news about estates children breakfast and lunch money being siphoned out by people, you will not be surprise that the enrollment drops.

For those who question about JB children go to Singapore and international school enrollment, please take note that the study is done by UNESCO, with the help of education ministry.