KOTA KINABALU: More than 40,000 students in Malaysia dropped out of school during the transition phase from Form 3 to Form 4 every year, said Institute for Development Studies (IDS) Sabah chairman Datuk Seri Panglima Clarence Bongkos Malakun.
Additionally, he said there were nearly 20,000 dropouts every year in the transition from Year 6 to Form 1, between the ages of 11 and 12, and then within the subsequent years in secondary schooling.
“In absolute terms, thousands of students are still dropping out from the mainstream schooling system.
“Poverty is more commonly known as one of the major factors, while the temptation to enter the labour force is also another most common factor,” he said at the opening ceremony of a seminar on ‘Gender and Literacy Development: Reaching the Dropouts’ here yesterday.
The seminar was officiated by the Minister of Special Tasks Datuk Teo Chee Kang, who represented Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Haji Aman.
Clarence said reasons of dropouts were many including lack of interest in schooling, the inability to pay for education-related expenses and poor academic performance.
Even involvement of parents in a child’s education related activities at home, frequency of interaction of parents with school teachers, management and Parent Teachers Association (PTA), and parents’ opinions of education including technical and vocational education pathways are also considered among the reasons, he said.
“While data from the MOE show that the dropout rates are low in Malaysia, but the absolute number of students leaving the system before completing a full secondary education reaches into the thousands.
“Majority of these students are from low-income households, hindering their ability to improve upon their future socioeconomic status,” he said.
According to the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (MEB), Clarence said approximately 36 per cent of each cohort does not reach the minimum achievement level desired by all students.
“This means that students from one particular cohort are no longer enrolled in the system or have not passed core Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) subjects.”
As a comparison, Clarence said in Korea for example, 98 per cent of those between the ages of 25 abd 34 had completed the equivalent of a high-school degree indicative of a negligible level of dropouts from the system.
“Whereas in Malaysia in 2011, only 56 per cent of the working age population in Malaysia had an SPM qualification or higher and a majority of these, about 65 per cent, had only an SPM qualification.”
H e said the Ministry of Education (MOE) revealed that one factor contributing to dropout rates was the inability of students to cope with the syllabus being taught besides poverty.
“If we can give children a good grasp of basic literacy and numeracy skills early in life they will be less likely to drop out of school.
“This could also mean that our future generation will have a brighter future.”
That said, Clarence pointed out that Malaysia had shown a tremendous improvement in education since Malaya achieved independence in 1957 and Malaysia in 1963.
“At that time, over 50 per cent of the population had no formal schooling, six per cent had some secondary level schooling and only one per cent had attained a post-secondary education.
“In 2011, the enrolment rate at primary level had shot up to 96 per cent and enrolment at secondary level was at 86 per cent, both of which are commendable.”
On the event, Clarence said the seminar hoped to be a venue to provide a more contemporary look at the issue of dropouts in the country as the matter deserved a re-examination.
Meanwhile, IDS Sabah executive director cum chief executive officer Datuk Mohd Hasnol bin Datuk Ayub said while national education statistics told a story of much improvement in Malaysia in the area of dropouts, it did not take into account students who left the mainstream schooling system during the three transition phases, which included the move from Year 6 to Form 1, the move from Form 3 to Form 4 and after SPM.
“Little information is available in Malaysia about these students that leave the system and where they end up.
“This also means that the true cost of dropouts to the country is difficult to calculate but many studies have been conducted in the United States which experienced 1.3 million dropouts from high school every year give a calculation of loss to the economy of more than USD90 billion.”
While the economic and financial costs of dropouts in Malaysia have not been calculated, Mohd Hasnol said it could be a large opportunity cost in the future as the country was already facing shortages of skilled and knowledge-based workforce in many key economic growth areas which included service, manufacturing jobs as well as in information technology (IT) sectors.
“Furthermore, dropping out is a problem that disproportionately affects those who are born from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and hard to reach which is particularly true in Sabah.”
As such, he said there was an urgent need for members of society, especially educationist and community development experts, NGOs, volunteers and other stakeholders from government and non-government bodies to delve deeper into this issue to ensure that issues related to the dropouts in the country and Sabah were addressed accordingly.
The seminar was organized by IDS Sabah in collaboration with Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS), University College Sabah Foundation (UCSF) and Sabah Women’s Advisory Council (MPWS).