Bokeo Province Sheds Lights on Student Drop Out Trend

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Children are walking home from school. (Photo: World Bank)

More than 5,000 children have dropped out of primary, lower, and upper secondary schools in Bokeo Province during the current academic year of 2023–24, as reported by the provincial education and sports department.

The department attributes the alarming dropout rate to various factors, including the far distance of schools from children’s homes, the lack of student dorms, financial difficulties faced by many families prompting children to seek employment, and the belief that further education is not valuable, which has prevented many children from moving onto higher education.

These issues were highlighted during an annual meeting of education administrators from across the country, hosted by the Ministry of Education and Sports. 

According to the department’s report, 2,772 children prematurely terminated their education in primary and upper secondary schools in 2023, with an additional 3,009 dropping out so far this year, totaling 5,781 children affected.

Furthermore, the province also witnessed a decline of 654 student enrollments in lower and upper secondary schools compared to the previous academic year.

Additionally, poor school management, low teaching proficiency, teacher shortages, and insufficient collaboration between school administrators, education officials, and parents further exacerbated the disinterest in attending school among young students.

In response, the Bokeo Provincial Education and Sports Department has devised strategies to address the issue. Plans include collaborating with local authorities to allocate farmland, generate employment opportunities, and enhance labor management to lower poverty levels, thereby reducing the necessity for children to engage in the workforce.

Additional efforts include disseminating school attendance regulations among students and parents to boost school participation, with officials also planning to introduce incentives to motivate children to pursue higher education and vocational training, equipping them with skills to support themselves and their families.

To further address the issue, Bokeo authorities are also planning to upgrade school infrastructure to create a more conducive learning environment and enhance the attractiveness of schools to children, providing support to children with poor learning outcomes through extra lessons and improved non-formal education opportunities, including basic vocational training in remote areas.

These initiatives align with the government’s broader objective of enhancing education quality and increasing school attendance nationwide, as the country has been experiencing an increase in school dropouts in recent years.

A report from the Ministry of Sports and Education shows a notable gap between high school graduation and university enrollment numbers in 2023, with over 49,000 high school graduates but fewer than 10,000 university enrollees. This decline, the lowest since 2018, saw a drop from over 9,000 students enrolled in the 2020–2021 academic year to 6,688 students in the 2023–2024 academic year.

Concerns about both rising school dropout rates and teacher shortage were also raised during the Ordinary Session of the 9th National Assembly Legislature in November 2023, particularly in urban and rural areas in the country, prompting many National Assembly members to urge government action.

To tackle the challenges, the Lao government has set up many projects integrated into the National Socio-Economic Development Plan for 2021-2025 to improve the education system in Laos, and the Ministry of Education and Sports is committed to increasing school enrollment and reducing the dropout rate in the upcoming academic year.