Adolescents have high educational aspirations, but are plagued by COVID-induced uncertainties: Study
Dhaka May 25 2021 :
A recent study conducted among school-going adolescents finds evidence of high educational aspirations among boys and girls alike which translates into ambitious professional aspirations.
Findings also revealed that adolescents have internalised the belief that education is a social good and has intrinsic value, and are aware and concerned about the quality of education and whether the school atmosphere is conducive to their studies.
Findings from the mixed-methods research and impact evaluation study conducted among adolescents attending grades 7 and 8 in public and semi-private schools in Chittagong and Sylhet, were presented at a webinar titled “Adolescent Experiences in Chittagong and Sylhet: The Adolescent Support Programme and COVID-19 Impact” on Monday, May 24, 2021.
The surveyed adolescents also discussed their lived realities during COVID-19 and reported facing social isolation, boredom and exhaustion as they miss their friends, going to school and the lost normality of the pre-pandemic days. ‘Education-related uncertainty’ was reported as the most common source of their anxiety by the adolescents. They also mentioned reducing daily food consumption and compromising their nutritional intake as a coping strategy adopted by their families to reduce economic crisis caused by the pandemic.
The study was conducted under the Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence (GAGE) programme, funded by UK Aid from the UK government – a unique, longitudinal mixed-methods research and impact evaluation study that explores ‘what works’ to support the development of adolescent capabilities. Findings were obtained from quantitative data collected from 2,220 adolescents in February and March 2020 (before COVID-19 school closures) by Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), and qualitative interviews with 100 adolescents, their parents and key informants jointly conducted by BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) and BRAC James P Grant School of Public Health (BRAC JPGSPH) between August and September 2020 (during COVID-19 school closures).
The research presented will support the evaluation of a comprehensive Adolescent Student Program (ASP), implemented by the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) with World Bank support, which aims to address key issues causing early school dropouts among adolescent girls and boys and ultimately lead to enhanced cycle completion, gender equity in secondary school outcomes, and enhanced knowledge about sexual and reproductive health. The research will inform recommendations for scaling up the most successful elements of the intervention to all schools in Chittagong and Sylhet regions in 2022.
Learning loss risk as a result of COVID-19 induced school closures was an important concern for adolescents.
“As education sector envision schools reopening the most important question for us right now is how we can capitalize on adolescent productivity to take advantage of the demographic dividend,” commented T. M. Asaduzzaman, Education Specialist & Team Leader of South Asia Education Global Practice of the World Bank Group.
“Whenever we decide to reopen schools – and I think we should think of that sooner rather than later – we’ll be starting from a situation where there is a huge backlog of learning loss , especially among the poorer segments (of adolescents)” said Dr Imran Matin, Executive Director, BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University.
The psychosocial wellbeing of adolescents was another key concern raised during the discussion.
Md. Sayedul Islam, Honourable Secretary, Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, Government of Bangladesh, who was present as the Chief Guest of the session, remarked, “Ministry of Women and Children Affairs has been offering free daily counselling by psychologists from the National Trauma Counselling Centre (NTCC) and from 8 Regional Trauma Counselling Centres (RTCCs) from April 2020 till now, where 1,610 children have received counselling services. Among them, most were adolescents.”
“Longitudinal qualitative data from such studies is key to informing programme designs and policies,” Dr emphasized Dr Sabina Faiz Rashid, Dean and Professor, BRAC James P. Grant School of Public Health, while closing the session.
Findings from the research were presented by Farhana Alam, Assistant Director, Center of Excellence for Gender, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (CGSRHR); Nicola Jones, Director of GAGE and Principal Research Fellow of Gender, Equality and Social Inclusion, ODI, on behalf of Silvia Guglielmi, Qualitative Researcher Overseas Development Institute; Maheen Sultan, Senior Fellow of Practice & Head, Gender and Social Transformation Cluster, BIGD; and Dr Jennifer Seager, Assistant Professor of Global Health and Economics, George Washington University. Mr Syed Mamunul Alam, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Education, Government of Bangladesh, was also present as a discussant at the webinar.