Impact of School System, Teaching and Assessment on Female Students' Dropout in Nepal

  • Tanka Prasad Dahal

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This thesis investigated factors within the school system, in the family and in the wider socio-cultural context that affected female students’ dropping out from schooling in Nepal. This research was important because Nepal is a highly gendered culture. Education for males is considered more valuable than that for females. Nepal ranks second highest in the world on an index of preference for sons (Maharjan, 2013). The completion of primary school rate for girls is only 51.7 percent (School Level Educational Statistics of Nepal, 2010).

    A systematic search strategy sought previous relevant studies. The criteria were that they must have a focus on school dropout in Nepal, on gender or girl students’ schooling, on the school system or curriculum, on educational policy in relation to female dropout or dropout in general, on factors that caused girl students’ dropout in Nepal, or on girl students’ dropout anywhere in the world with a similar socio-cultural context analogous to Nepal. They must also contain significant data. From 3308 titles only 24 studies were selected, as only a small number were methodologically sound. The review revealed a wide range of issues within school, home and community. A gap in the literature was that no study focused solely on the effect of the educational system on female students’ school retention or dropout in Nepal.

    This research utilised the concept of inter-subjectivity to capture the multiplicity of perspectives on the phenomenon of female students’ dropout. It used both qualitative and quantitative methods of gathering data. The participants were selected from seven categories – District Education Office (DEO) staff, head teachers, teachers, students in school, students who dropped out, parents of students in school and parents of students who dropped out from school. Random sampling, purposive and snowballing methods were used. The respondents were selected from six districts in three ecological regions: the mountains, the hills and the terai. In-depth interviews were conducted with 96 respondents and surveys were administered to 570 respondents to incorporate a more objective dimension. Both measures took 20 – 30 minutes to complete, although a few interviews took longer than 30 minutes.

    A large number of issues emerged from the data. These findings were consolidated in three interacting models: the educational-exclusion model, the economic-political-exclusion model and the socio-cultural-exclusion model. The educational-exclusion model included the findings that the educational spaces of public schools reinforced discrimination against female students because there was a lack of safety systems and space for maintaining female students’ privacy, no separate teaching for students with different abilities, poor implementation of educational policy such as the continuous assessment system (CAS) and not enough female teachers in schools. The economic-political-exclusion model incorporated findings related to poverty (family economy) and under-funded schools, and also issues of excess politicisation in educational administration and public schools. The socio-cultural-exclusion model found issues of prejudice over girls’ education, early marriage, parents’ superstitious beliefs, the effect of the caste system, the effect of dowry, and lack of awareness among parents about the value of education for both sons and daughters. This latter model also showed the impact of gender bias against daughters, patriarchal family norms and internal and external migration.

    Many of the findings of this study confirmed the findings of the previous literature: factors related to family economy, parental awareness, parental education and gender discrimination, and factors from the school system such as school amenities, pupil-teacher ratio, examinations and effect of the teaching system on female students. But this study also uncovered unique issues not revealed by the literature: the negative impact of CAS, the effect of the lack of teacher accountability, the effect of over-politicisation in educational institutions, the effect of superstitious beliefs and the effects of the dowry system.

    A major limitation is that during the fieldwork people were recovering from a disastrous earthquake trauma. Consequently, only one school in a district was selected for data gathering. Two or more schools would have given urban/rural variation within each district. Likewise, a large number of students were involved in survey but the number of respondents in other categories was small and dropped-out students were barely involved owing to recruitment difficulties.

    This research indicates a need for substantial restructuring in the education system in Nepal. There are needs for an inclusive school environment, teachers with skills to implement the new methods of teaching required by the official curriculum, a fairer assessment system in practice, a proper support and safety system, differentiated teaching for students with different abilities, greater availability of library and other independent study facilities, better teacher-student ratios, increased parental involvement and regular parent-school communication. The respondents said that the government should allocate additional funding for additional resources. In the future researchers should focus on how public schools could function independent of political involvement and how their spaces could be inclusive for both male and female students from different family backgrounds. Intervention studies would be particularly valuable.
    Date of Award2019
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorKeith Topping (Supervisor) & Susan Levy (Supervisor)

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