Upper Primary School Dropouts:
Case Studies from Indo- Bangladesh Broader Area of West Bengal

Arup Majumder and Provasis Mondal

The average annual dropout rate was the highest for secondary schools in India was about 17.06 percent in 2016, highest in India. To clear the secondary level of education in India, students are required to write a common board examination set conducted by the government (

India’s infant mortality rates in India have decreased over the years with the help of government initiatives. The government launched “Anganwadis” in 1975, to provide adequate medical care and to combat hunger and malnutrition in children. These government-funded childcare centers enroll children as young as six months old. Across India, there are more than a million Anganwadis that deliver early education, health, and nutrition services. These centers also provide pre-primary education for children below five years.

With low levels of reading literacy among eighth graders, faring well in the upcoming at the later stage, in the secondary school classes could be challenging. The government-run public schools provide free and compulsory education as a fundamental right to children between the ages of six and fourteen. To improve the nutritional status and attendance of school children, the Indian government implemented the "Midday Meal Scheme" that offers free lunch to all students on working days. While simplistic in its approach, one meal taken care of during the day helps parents in the lower income groups, specifically those that depend on daily/hourly wages.

However, Education is the basic requirement for human development. With education, employment opportunities are broadened and income levels are increased. The development of an individual and the progress of a nation depend on education. It is also the principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values and thus is the strongest force in the development and growth of a child in preparing him/her to be a responsible, intelligent, and capable citizen. Education is also equally important to improve the women’s status and autonomy. It contributes to an increase in confidence and decision-making power within the household. In India, although the percentage of literacy is rising, what is alarming is that the number of illiterate children in the age group of 6 to 14 years is also increasing (Sharma, Sharma, Nagar, 2007).

Despite of governmental efforts, huge investment and many innovative programmes, the school dropout remains alarming high in many states. In this context, it is not only the provision of schooling facilities and quality of education, but also other household and social factors play a major role in influencing the discontinuation of education. It is very important to understand the family and parental characteristics to examine the reasons behind school dropouts. Now in this micro level study we can try to understand that, what are the real facts in the school education, at the Indo- Bangladesh rural area of West Bengal?

However on the basis of following objectives, we may understand about the actual scenario

  1. To understand the differentials in school dropouts at state levels.
  2. To understand the main causes for school dropout reported by students.
  3. To examine the household and parental characteristics influencing the school dropouts in Indo- Bangladesh area of West Bengal.

This study is based on the direct intensive observation and interviews taken from the villagers of Indo- Bangladesh broader area of North 24 Parganas of West Bengal. Questionnaire method was followed to collect the data and all the sessions were digitally recorded. Apart from the above mentioned methods employed in the field, the earlier published and unpublished field materials have also been used in this study.

Typical Case Studies
Ranita Mandal, a young girl of 23 was once a student of Higher Secondary School in her locality. At about a decade ago, she left school. In her opinion, the financial crisis of her family was the main reason for dropping out of school. Her father was an ordinary daily waged laborer and her mother took care of the family. When she was in the fifth standard just after the annual examination was over, her father had fallen victim to an unknown disease. But his health did not improve even after the treatment and cooperation of the doctors and the Government hospitals. After a continuous fight, she lost her father when she was in class 6. This tragic incident was a bolt from the blue for her family. Including Ranita, there were five members in the family. She had two little brothers and an aged grandmother. Her father was the only earning member. So her mother, who once took care of the family, stepped out of the house and started to work as a daily waged laborer. As a result, the full responsibility of the family bestowed upon Ranita. Besides taking care of her brothers and performing the household chores, she continued her studies, realizing that continuing studies in that particular situation was tough for her. To meet the daily requirements of the family, Ranita got an opportunity to babysit in a city. Despite the reluctance of her mother and grandmother, she left home and joined the service. While in her service, she continued her studies. But she could not seat for her annual examinations. Months later, she returned home from the city. After that, she looked after her brothers and grandmother and engrossed herself in the family responsibilities. Presently she is married and has a two-year-old child, her husband works in a small private company. Even at this stage of life, she regrets her studies. She often feels a little more education was required.

This was the story of a little girl who was born into a poor family beside the Indo-Bangladesh border area who lost her childhood, her student life. Her life story seems to have crossed the several stages of life in one go and just after birth it has entered family life in one leap.

On the other hand, a similar story can be painted in words, the life story of Bikash, who was also the resident of the border area. Though the matter is different, it's worth thinking about. Bikash had to drop out of school in the pursuit of a job while he was in the seventh standard. His family comprised five members including him. There was not much income at home and thus to fulfill the needs, he started working in the field in the morning. But he found it difficult to cope up with his school routine. Often he was late to attend the classes, as returning home from the field and again joining school was a hectic journey for him. Over and over he was scolded by his teachers for his irregularity and unpunctuality. Even his friends did not spare him and complained about him to the teachers. Without even having a slight idea of his life, they used to say that he was standing in the field. Statements like these triggered the situation and the teacher got every right to express his anger upon Bikash. This situation continued for several days, and unable to cope up with this circumstance, Bikash left school. Thus he put an end to his studies. Currently, he has a small grocery shop but his only challenge in life is to impart proper education to his son and he is struggling hard to meet this challenge. Sometimes he regrets about his past. He says that he would have tried a little to continue his studies. Maybe the teachers would have scolded a bit but he could study a little more. At this stage of life, he understood the value of education.

 Thus, it can be concluded that the rural economic condition is not the sole reason to create a hostile environment for learning. The behaviour of the teachers as well as classmates leaves a deep impact on the minds of the learners in the village areas of Indo-Bangladesh. Now the burning question arises, who carries the responsibility to deviate from this education system?

A brief overview will clear our understanding of this matter. No matter how much one goes through rural or urban life, along with the economy, it claims a lot of social awareness. In this context, 'social-awareness' means that apart from parents, teachers as well as classmates should be conscious of their attitude towards others. And by doing so, this problem can be prevented to some extent. A part of the awareness also lies in introspecting the exact reasons behind the absence of the student in school.

The present article tried to understand the differentials and factors associated with school dropouts at upper primary level in Indo- Bangladesh area of West Bengal.  A number of key points have emerged after reading the case studies which are to be kept in mind before forming policies to reduce dropout rate in India. An attempt has been made to look into the socio backgrounds of students. A number of observations have been made. With regard to parental education, it has been observed parents of drop out students were poorly educated than parents of non-dropout students. Also, specifically both mothers and fathers of dropouts were quite poorly educated. Education of mother is considered an important factor which can lead to a reduction in dropouts.

We would like to express our gratitude to the all villagers of North 24 Parganas and other adjoining villages for providing me valuable information on the various aspects of their education and education system. Beside this we also acknowledge to ICSSR for financial support of this study.

Sharma, Ruchita, Shubhangna Sharma and Shipra Nagar, (2007), “Extent of Female School Drop outs in Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh”, Journal of Social Science, 15(3): 201-204.

Dr. Arup Majumder, RA, ICSSR Project, Department of Education, Swami Niswambalanda Girls’ College, Hoogly, West Bengal (Email:
Dr. Provasis Mondal, Assistant Professor & Director of the ICSSR Project, Department of Education, Swami Niswambalanda Girls’ College, Hoogly, West Bengal <Email: >

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Sep 19, 2020

Dr. Arup Majumder

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