The official primary school age in Liberia, as defined by the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED), is 6 to 11 years. The official secondary school age is 12 to 17 years. Given these school ages, a 6-year-old in grade 1 and a 7-year-old in grade 2 are in the right grade for their age. A 7-year-old in grade 1 would be one year overage and an 8-year-old in grade 1 would be two years overage. A 5-year-old in grade 1 would be one year underage.
The graph below shows the age distribution of pupils in primary and secondary education in Liberia. Pupils who are in the right grade for their age or underage are in a small minority. In the first twelve grades, their share never exceeds 9%. By contrast, as many as 98% of all pupils in a single grade are overage. The degree of overage attendance is astounding: 5% of all first graders are 9 or more years overage, meaning that they start primary school at age 15 or later. 19% of all first graders are at least 7 years overage and 44% are at least 5 years overage. In grade 8, 18% of all pupils are 9 or more years overage; while the official age for eighth graders is 13 years, one in five pupils in that grade in Liberia is 22 years or older.
Age distribution of pupils in primary and secondary education in Liberia, 2007
Source: Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) 2007.
What are the reasons for this high prevalence of overage school attendance? In Liberia, as in other countries of sub-Saharan Africa, many pupils enter school late for a variety of reasons that include poverty, a scarcity of educational facilities, and lack of enforcement of the official school ages. High repetition rates further exacerbate the problem of overage school attendance. Among the consequences of this age structure in school are a higher probability of dropout and reduced lifetime earnings caused by incomplete education or late entry into the labor market.
- Overage pupils in primary and secondary education
- Official school ages: primary, secondary, and compulsory education
- Primary school entrance age and duration
- Repetition rates in primary and secondary school
- Survival rate to the last grade of primary school
- Transition from primary to secondary education
- Regional disparities in school life expectancy
- Children of primary and secondary school age out of school
- Children out of school: Global trend 1999-2008
- Household wealth and years of education
- National wealth and years of education
- National wealth and school enrollment
- Review of the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED)
Friedrich Huebler, 31 July 2011, Creative Commons License
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