31 July 2011

School attendance by grade and age in Liberia

The article "Overage pupils in primary and secondary education" of June 2011 summarized data on school attendance from 36 countries and found that overage school attendance is common in sub-Saharan Africa. The countries with the highest share of overage pupils in the sample were Haiti, Liberia, Uganda, Rwanda, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, and Malawi. In Liberia, 93% of all pupils in primary and secondary education are at least one year overage for their grade and 84% are at least two years overage. This article takes a closer look at Liberia by analyzing data from the same Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) from 2007 that was analyzed for the earlier article.

The official primary school age in Liberia, as defined by the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED), is 6 to 11 years. The official secondary school age is 12 to 17 years. Given these school ages, a 6-year-old in grade 1 and a 7-year-old in grade 2 are in the right grade for their age. A 7-year-old in grade 1 would be one year overage and an 8-year-old in grade 1 would be two years overage. A 5-year-old in grade 1 would be one year underage.

The graph below shows the age distribution of pupils in primary and secondary education in Liberia. Pupils who are in the right grade for their age or underage are in a small minority. In the first twelve grades, their share never exceeds 9%. By contrast, as many as 98% of all pupils in a single grade are overage. The degree of overage attendance is astounding: 5% of all first graders are 9 or more years overage, meaning that they start primary school at age 15 or later. 19% of all first graders are at least 7 years overage and 44% are at least 5 years overage. In grade 8, 18% of all pupils are 9 or more years overage; while the official age for eighth graders is 13 years, one in five pupils in that grade in Liberia is 22 years or older.

Age distribution of pupils in primary and secondary education in Liberia, 2007
Graph with data on overage and underage pupils in primary and secondary education in Liberia
Source: Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) 2007. - Click image to enlarge.

What are the reasons for this high prevalence of overage school attendance? In Liberia, as in other countries of sub-Saharan Africa, many pupils enter school late for a variety of reasons that include poverty, a scarcity of educational facilities, and lack of enforcement of the official school ages. High repetition rates further exacerbate the problem of overage school attendance. Among the consequences of this age structure in school are a higher probability of dropout and reduced lifetime earnings caused by incomplete education or late entry into the labor market.

Related articles
External links
Friedrich Huebler, 31 July 2011 (edited 27 February 2012), Creative Commons License
Permanent URL: http://huebler.blogspot.com/2011/07/liberia.html


Maarten Buis said...

The first thing I though when I saw that graph was "wouldn't that be a nice case for a spine plot?" i.e. make the width of the bars proportional to the number of students in each grade. You can create that graph using Nick Cox's -spineplot-.

My second thought was "well maybe not, that extra information may just distract from the main story. But lets comment on it anyhow, as it is a cool and underused plot and it may come in useful some other time"

Friedrich Huebler said...

Maarten, thank you for your suggestion. I used the spineplot add-on for Stata to create graphs for an article on children of primary and secondary school age out of school.