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Primary school attendance in Nepal, 1996-2006

In 2006, a Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) collected data on school attendance in Nepal. A comparison with data from earlier DHS surveys, conducted in 1996 and 2001, shows a steady increase in primary school attendance over the last decade. The primary school net attendance rate (NAR) - the share of children of primary school age who attend primary school - has increased by almost 10 percentage points every five years, from 65 percent in 1996 to 84 percent in 2006. If Nepal can sustain this rate of increase it will reach the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education by 2015.

The increase in attendance was accompanied by a reduction in disparities between boys and girls, residents of urban and rural areas, and children from different household wealth quintiles (see the graph and table below). Much of the increase in primary school attendance is due to higher attendance rates in rural areas, especially over the period 2001 to 2005, when attendance in urban areas grew only marginally.

Primary school net attendance rate (%), Nepal 1996-2006
Bar graph with trends in primary school attendance in Nepal, 1996-2006
Data source: Nepal Demographic and Health Surveys, 1996, 2001, 2006.

Children from the poorest 20 percent of all households saw the biggest increase in primary school attendance, from 48 percent in 1996 to 77 percent 2006. The difference in the primary NAR between children from the richest and poorest household quintiles fell by more than half over the same period, from 42 percent in 1996 to 20 percent in 2006.

Nepal also achieved a marked reduction in gender disparity over the past 10 years. In 1996, only 56 percent of all girls of primary school age attended primary school. This share grew to 82 percent by 2006. The primary NAR of boys grew from 74 percent to 86 percent over the same period. With a gender parity index (GPI) of 0.95 - the ratio of female to male NAR - Nepal has almost reached the Millennium Development Goal of gender parity in primary education.

Primary school net attendance rate (%), Nepal 1996-2006

199620012006Change 1996 to 2006
Total65.173.584.119.0
Male73.679.986.012.3
Female56.466.882.025.6
Urban84.389.890.25.9
Rural63.672.083.219.6
Poorest 20%48.459.676.728.3
Second 20%59.767.479.820.1
Middle 20%62.075.184.322.3
Fourth 20%72.678.286.914.3
Richest 20%90.694.396.96.2
Data source: Nepal Demographic and Health Surveys, 1996, 2001, 2006.

Comments on the 2006 DHS data

The authors of the final survey report from the 2006 DHS in Nepal counted children in school-based pre-primary centers as primary school students for the calculation of the primary school NAR. Children in informal, community based preschool classes were excluded from the calculation of the primary NAR. The author of this article chose the same approach.

A UNESCO country profile of Nepal prepared for the Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2007 explains that "there are significant differences in the way the school based and the community based [early childhood development centres] are running. Most of the school based centres are run by the DEO [District Education Office], and most of them are more primary schools than development centres."

The statement by UNESCO supports the treatment of children in school-based pre-primary centers in Nepal as equivalent to children in primary school for statistical purposes. In developing countries it is not uncommon to find children of primary school age in preschool but because of national differences the interpretation of the data from Nepal cannot necessarily be applied to other countries.

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Friedrich Huebler, 14 August 2007 (edited 12 October 2008), Creative Commons License
Permanent URL: http://huebler.blogspot.com/2007/08/primary-school-attendance-in-nepal-1996.html

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