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Whose Progress? Causes and Consequences of Unequal Transitions

Thu, March 9, 1:15 to 2:45pm, Sheraton Atlanta, Floor: 1, Capitol South (North Tower)


More and more children are now entering basic education, yet children and young people continue to drop out of education at key transition points in school systems. This is most common between the two primary cycles in Ethiopia (World Bank 2015), between upper primary and lower secondary school in India (World Bank 2009), and between lower and upper secondary school in Vietnam (Baulch et al 2010). Weak transition exacerbates wider socio-economic inequalities, as children from disadvantaged groups are excluded from higher levels of schooling which may offer the most value, economically and socially. The positive externalities of participating in secondary education arguably exceed those for primary education (World Bank 2009) and accordingly, where transition remains the privilege of the advantaged, intergenerational inequality is further entrenched, wasting the talents and squandering the rights of those children who fail to progress.

Utilising data from the Young Lives study, which is uniquely placed to address questions of transition due to the linked data at household and school level, this paper considers which children and young people are included (and excluded) from access to higher levels of schooling in three countries (Ethiopia, India and Vietnam). In Vietnam, 92% of children from the majority ethnic group make the transition to upper secondary school, compared to 77% of ethnic minority children (GSO & UNICEF 2015). Similarly, studies in India have indicated that the most disadvantaged students are most likely to have dropped out by the end of primary school; as a result, those who transition to lower secondary school are a relatively privileged group (Siddhu 2011). In Ethiopia, while children from the poorest income quintile are equally represented in the primary first cycle (Grades 1-4), the probability of entering the primary second cycle (Grades 5-8) for children in the highest income quintile is three times that of children in the poorest income quintile (World Bank 2015).

Evidence from the Young Lives school effectiveness surveys in 2016-17 offers in-depth insights into the quality of learning accessed by upper primary and secondary school students in three of the Young Lives study countries. This paper contextualises insights from these school surveys, using longitudinal household and school effectiveness data from the Young Lives surveys to present preliminary findings from Ethiopia, India (Andhra Pradesh and Telangana) and Vietnam on transitions through education systems. Access to secondary education has been defined by the World Bank (2009) as ‘critical’ to breaking intergenerational transmission of poverty, but as yet, despite increased access to basic education, policy has failed to find the means to address problems of drop-out at key transition points. Drawing on Young Lives data on the ‘Younger Cohort’, children born in 2000-2001, and their experiences of schooling from 2006-2016, this paper makes use of the unique longitudinal nature of the dataset to explore the home and schooling factors associated with children and young people’s trajectories from primary to secondary education to draw conclusions about what leads children to drop out of school and how this can be addressed.

Baulch, B., Vu Hoang Dat & Nguyen Thang (2012) Do Vietnamese schools provide the right education for an industrialising country? Young Lives Working Paper No. 81. Oxford: Young Lives.
General Statistics Office & UNICEF (2015) Vietnam: Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey: Final Report. Hanoi: General Statistics Office.
Siddhu, G. (2011) Who makes it to secondary school? Determinants of transition to secondary schools in rural India. International Journal of Educational Development, 31 (4): 394-401. World Bank (2009)
World Bank (2009) Secondary Education In India: Universalizing Opportunity. Washington DC, USA: World Bank.
World Bank. (2015). Ethiopia Poverty Assessment 2014 (AUS6744). Washington DC: World