Asia and the Pacific

11 December 1995

UN Highlights Asian Drop-out Problem
by Lawrence Sheets

BANGKOK, Thailand (Reuter) - Millions of children in the booming East Asia and Pacific regions are dropping out of schools each year despite the region's high investment in education, the United Nations Chidren's Fund (UNICEF) said.

UNICEF said that of two million children in China who drop out of elementary school each year, 75 percent were girls.

It said an estimated one third of Chinese children in poor and remote areas did not complete grade five schooling. Elementary education goes up to grade six.

A UNICEF statement said most child drop-outs were in poor areas lacking pre-school and day-care services.

It said although basic education had improved recently in many Asian countries, quality teaching and a relevant curriculum were still absent.

"One difficulty for increasing school completion rates is the on-going political and economic transition in many countries ...when participation in the new market economy is either more immediately profitable or necessary for survival," said UNICEF regional adviser Sheldon Shaeffer.

The UN agency said East Asia and Pacific as a whole had achieved a 95 percent initial primary school enrolment rate, and there had been notable progress in China, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, North Korea and most Pacific countries.

But Shaeffer said the fact that 35 million children were born in Asia each year carried vast implications.

He said China's drop-outs would join Asia's 100 million illiterates.

UNICEF said schools in Cambodia, Laos and Burma faced problems retaining one third of children up to grade five. In the Philippines, about six million teenagers were out of school and risked becoming street children, child laborers and targets of sexual exploitation.

It said UNICEF's funding on education and early childhood development programmes would increase by 70-240 percent in China, Laos, Burma, the Philippines and Vietnam by the year 2000.

Copyright 1995 Reuters Ltd. All rights reserved. The above news report may not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, without the prior written consent of Reuters Ltd.

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