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Emotional attitudes, low aspirations behind teen dropouts, says study

The study recommends interventions to build parental aspirations, particularly for girls, and especially in socio-economically disadvantaged households

Vipul Vivek | IndiaSpend 

In decade, media exposure fell for Indians who spent more years in school
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Secondary school students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, often drop out of school due to weak emotional attitudes and their parents’ low aspirations for their education and occupation, a study of 834 children between ages 12 and 19 in Andhra Pradesh has found.

The study by UK-based non-profit chapter found that children with a high level of self-efficacy were 1.4 times more likely than those with a low level to continue education up to age 19. Children with a high level of subjective well-being were twice as likely to continue education.

Children whose caregivers aspired for them to complete secondary education or more were three times more likely to continue schooling at age 19 than their counterparts, the study found. Children whose caregivers aspired to see them become either a full-time parent or housewife at age 20 were 1.8 times less likely to continue education than children whose caregiver aspired to see them become a professional by age 20.

Further, children belonging to the richest 10% of households in the sample were twice as likely to continue education to age 19 compared with those belonging to the poorest 10%. The study recommends interventions to build parental aspirations, particularly for girls, and especially in socio-economically disadvantaged households. It also recommends provision of social protection for disadvantaged households and developing teachers’ skills in order to encourage students and build their psychosocial competencies.

The study is part of research on 3,000 students, mostly from poorer areas, in former Andhra Pradesh (now bifurcated into Telangana and Andhra Pradesh), going on since 2002. It used a sample of 834 children on whom data — quantitative as well as qualitative — were collected between 2005 and 2014. The results, outlined in a February 2018 paper by Renu Singh, Ranjana Kesarwani and Protap Mukherjee, highlight how children’s and parents’ psychosocial skills as well as household income decide how likely they are to continue their education up to age 19.

“Psychosocial skills are an important element of the confidence and motivation to progress in academic life,” the paper notes, explaining the model it used to highlight the association between psychosocial skills at age 12 and educational progression through adolescence (to age 19), as well as parental aspirations for the child, aged 12, at age 20.

The researchers assessed students’ emotional attitudes through “self-efficacy” and “subjective well-being”. For self-efficacy (or self-belief), students were asked to rate themselves on seven variables measuring cognitive, social, behavioural and emotional attitudes on a scale of 0 to 7, with 7 indicating maximum self-efficacy. Students’ subjective well-being was assessed by asking them to score themselves from 1 (representing the worst possible life) to 9 (the best possible life). A score of 4 or above indicates high subjective well-being. While 60% of the respondents reported high self-efficacy, 51% reported high subjective well-being. Among students who reported a high self-efficacy index value, 57.3% went on to continue education up to age 19, while 42.7% dropped out some time between ages 12 and 19. By contrast, of those who scored low on the self-efficacy index, 48.5% were still in school by age 19, and 51.5% had dropped out by age 19.

Emotional attitudes, low aspirations behind teen dropouts, says study

Similarly, students reporting higher subjective well-being were more likely to have stayed on at school — 64% of those reporting higher well-being had continued education till the age of 19, while 36% had dropped out by age 19; but among those reporting low subjective well-being, 44.2% had continued education and 55.8% had dropped out by age 19.

The study estimates that children with a high level of self-efficacy were 1.4 times more likely than those with a low level to continue education up to age 19. Children with a high level of subjective well-being were twice as likely to continue education, the study notes.

This finding is important in the context of goal 4 of the — a global development agenda promoted by the United Nations — that aims to educate every child. In 2014, 24 million (14% of 124 million) out-of-school children were Indian, Kiran Bhatty, senior fellow at the Delhi-based think-tank Centre for Policy Research, wrote on The Wire on July 7, 2015. Enrolment rates drop from 95% at age 14 to 70% at age 18 in rural schools, with more women dropping out than men as age increases, as IndiaSpend reported on January 16, 2018. At age 14, the difference between male and female non-enrolment is one percentage point, with 4.7% males not enrolled against 5.7% females; it rises to four percentage points by age 18, with 32% females not enrolled as against 28% males. “[I]f irregular attendance were included in the definition, the total percentage of children out of school would be much higher,” Bhatty wrote.

While 70% of caregivers in the sample aspired for their children to continue to secondary education and beyond, 30% did not imagine their children going higher than secondary school. Regarding children’s occupational aspirations by age 20, 54% saw their children as “professionals” (“accountant, artist, civil servant, district collector, lawyer, teacher, etc.”), while 32% aspired to see their children become skilled or semi-skilled workers/entrepreneurs (skilled: “computer operator, administrative assistant, tailor, etc”; semi-skilled/entrepreneur: “domestic worker, labourer, market trader, businessman, etc”).

As many as 14% caregivers did not see their children as working at 20, which included being a full-time parent or a housewife (for girls), or studying full time. Only two caregivers in the sample of 834 saw their children studying at age 20. Children whose caregivers aspired for them to complete secondary education or more were three times more likely to continue schooling at age 19 than their counterparts.

Those whose caregivers aspired to see them become either a full-time parent or housewife at age 20 were 1.8 times less likely to continue education than children whose caregivers aspired to see them become a professional by age 20. Further, children belonging to the richest 10% of households in the sample were twice as likely to continue education by age 19 compared with those belonging to the poorest 10%. Nearly 61% of first-born children continued school up to age 19, as opposed to 40.3% of children who were fourth-born or later. Children from scheduled tribes were twice as likely as those from scheduled castes to be in school at age 19. The two are historically disadvantaged communities assured affirmative action by the constitution.

As many as 85% of children who were engaged in paid work at age 12 had dropped out of school by age 19 — such children were 89% less likely to be in school at 19 than children who did not perform paid work. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act 2016 stipulates that children under 14 years of age should not be employed, while the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009 legislates that all children aged 6-14 years should be in school. However, as this study shows, these laws are often violated.


Reprinted with permission from IndiaSpend.org, a data-driven, public-interest journalism non-profit organisation

First Published: Thu, March 01 2018. 23:30 IST
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