NAO: the situation with compulsory school attendance is troubling

Toomas Mattson | 8/28/2007 | 12:00 AM

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TALLINN, 28 August 2007 - The NAO is truly worried about the situation with compulsory school attendance – for at least 1,500 children it is not known why they are not enrolled in any school. Still, almost 1,000 children drop out of basic school every year who are thus deprived of basic education, and this figure has not dropped notably in the recent years. The NAO's fresh audit does not evidence a considerable progress in compulsory school attendance as compared to 2002 when the NAO examined the same issue.

In addition to dropping out of basic school, the major problems include absences and lack of progress in school work. The NAO analysis showed that on the average a basic school student is absent from school for 3 weeks per year, whereof unjustified absences account for 1 week. Unjustified absences are wide-spread among the youth and as much as 69 % of students had been unduly absent from school for at least one lesson during the school year. In the previous school year, about 3,100 students were absent from school systematically (for at least 20 % of lessons in one quarter of the school year).

Analysis of unjustified absences by grades shows that the basic school upper level students were absent the most, but the worrying fact is that for every 1st grade student the unjustified absences equalled about one school day. This indicates that the children’s problems begin already in the lower grades and this should be the time to intervene and solve these problems.

Another major problem is the students’ lack of progress school work. As much as one fifth of the students of grades 7 to 9 have received the rating “poor” for one quarter and more than 7 % of them got at least one rating “poor” for the whole year.

The NAO audit showed that the Ministry of Education and Research, in co-operation with the local governments, has failed to provide and overview of the educational path of all children in the basic school age group. Comparison of student lists with the Population Register data demonstrated that the register included almost 4,000 children in the compulsory school attendance age who had not enrolled in any school. For almost 1,500 of these children, the Estonian government was paying child allowance, which means that they have a connection with Estonia.

The NAO Audit Manager, Külli Nõmm said: ”It is intolerable that we are unable to determine whether a child receiving child allowance from the Estonian government actually respects the school attendance obligation. The NAO hopes that the Ministry of Education and Research will in co-operation with the Ministry of the Interior and the local governments undertake to determine the whereabouts of these children, and that the situation will be clarified already in the upcoming school year."

The Ministry of Education and Research has introduced various new support measures to facilitate compulsory school attendance (boarding school facilities, student evaluations) and increased the financing of support measures by more than 2.5 times, compared to 2003, but the situation with compulsory school attendance has not improved remarkably. The problem of unclear division of responsibilities between the different parties in enforcing the school attendance obligation still persists. And the development of the support network for schools has been chaotic. Many small country schools are unable to develop support measures on their own, but many schools still lack that certain partner to be addressed in need.

Also, the NAO detected shortcomings in the Estonian Education Information System, which does not provide an adequate overview of the situation in general education schools or allow assessing the use of measures in schools.

The Minister of Education and Research has examined the NAO audit results and agreed to most of the conclusions and recommendations in the audit report.

The NAO conducted the audit “Compliance with school attendance obligation and effectiveness of enforcement measures” in order to determine the amount of children ignoring the school attendance obligation and how these children are being helped to return to school.

Toomas Mattson
Communication Manager of National Audit Office
Telephone: 6400 777
Mob: 51 34900
E-mail: toomas.mattson@riigikontroll.ee

  • Posted: 8/28/2007 12:00 AM
  • Last Update: 9/15/2015 1:14 PM
  • Last Review: 9/15/2015 1:14 PM

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