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School attendance among 5- to 24-year-olds in Liberia

An article that was published on this site in July 2011, "School attendance by grade and age in Liberia", shows that overage school attendance is very common in Liberia, mainly due to late entry into the education system. The official primary school age in Liberia is 6 to 11 years according to the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED). Yet, an analysis of data from a Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) from 2007 demonstrates that the vast majority of pupils in primary and secondary school in Liberia are older than the theoretical age for their grade. For example, nearly three quarters of all first-graders in Liberia are at least 3 years older than the official entrance age into primary education (see Figure 1). 24% of all first-graders are 5 or 6 years overage, 14% are 7 or 8 years overage, and 5% are 9 or more years overage. Children in the last group start primary school at age 15 or later.

Figure 1: 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.

Figure 1 shows the age distribution in the 12 grades of primary and secondary education in Liberia. The same DHS data from 2007 can also be analyzed differently, by single year of age instead of by grade. Figure 2 presents the level and grade attended for the population between 5 and 24 years of age. For each age group, the graph shows the percentage in pre-primary, primary, secondary, and tertiary education. The data for primary and secondary education is further divided into single grades, indicated by shades of blue for the 6 primary grades and shades of green for the 6 secondary grades. In addition, Figure 2 shows how many percent are out of school and for how many percent the level and grade of education attended is missing.

Figure 2: Level and grade of education attended by population 5-24 years in Liberia, 2007
Graph with data on school attendance by age in Liberia
Source: Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) 2007. - Click image to enlarge.

One surprising finding is the large percentage of children between 5 and 14 years who are in pre-primary education. About half of all 5- to 8-year-olds, 39% of all 9-year-olds, and 28% of all 10-year-olds are in pre-primary education. Even at age 14, nearly 7% are still in preschool. One possible explanation is that parents keep their children in pre-primary education due to lack of access to primary education.

Some children start attending primary education at age 5 or 6 but most children enter late. Even among persons 20 years or older, some are still in the first primary grade. School attendance overall reaches a peak at age 14, when more than 86% are in school, mostly in primary education. Primary school attendance rates are highest among 12- to 15-year-olds; two out of three children in this age group are in primary education. Secondary school attendance reaches a peak at age 19, when 38% are in secondary education; in addition, at least 30% of all 17- and 18-year-olds are in secondary education. Attendance rates for tertiary education are low and do not exceed 2% until age 24, when 4% study at a university or other institution of higher learning.

The percentage of the population that is not in any type of formal education decreases from 44% among 5-year-olds to 13% among 14-year-olds. From age 15, out-of-school rates increase again and among 23- and 24-year-olds in Liberia, 61% and 60%, respectively, are not in school. Lastly, for a small percentage of the DHS sample, the grade and level attended was missing.

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External links

Friedrich Huebler, 30 April 2012, Creative Commons License
Permanent URL: http://huebler.blogspot.com/2012/04/liberia.html

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