To assess the internal efficiency and wastage in the education system we use techniques that are similar to those used in ‘cohort analysis’ in demography. A cohort is a group of persons who jointly experience a series of specific events over a period of time. Accordingly, we may define a ‘school cohort’ as ‘a group of pupils (or students) who join the first grade of a given cycle in the same school year, and subsequently experience the events of promotion, repetition, drop out or successful com- pletion of the final grade, each in his/her own way’.
There are three ways to analyse educational internal efficiency by means of the cohort student flow method, depending on the type of data collected. These methods are as follows: true cohort, appar- ent cohort, and reconstructed cohort.
True cohort analysis
The ideal way to obtain a precise assessment of wastage is through the use of the true cohort method, which involves longitudinal study to monitor the progress of a specific cohort of students through the educational cycle. This can also be done through retrospective study of school records to retrace the flows of students through the grades in the past years. This method, however, is costly and time-consuming and requires a school records system that reliably records the flow of individual students in the school.
in the absence of information about individual students, internal efficiency in education can be assessed based on data about students who repeat grades, combined with data about enrolments by grade for at least two consecutive years using either the apparent or reconstructed cohort method.
Apparent cohort method
The apparent cohort method is applied when there is no information about students who repeat grades. in this case, enrolments for Grade 1 in a particular year are compared with enrolments in suc- cessive grades in the following years.
We assume that any decrease in enrolment numbers from one grade to the next corresponds to wastage. This method is currently the most common approach to measuring wastage, but only produces approximate estimates of the true dropout rate. This method assumes that students are either promoted, or they drop out of the school system. Some students may repeat grades, but this important factor is overlooked. This method is, nevertheless, appropriate for countries that apply automatic promotion.
Reconstructed cohort method
The reconstructed cohort method, is another method that is commonly used to estimate wastage in the education system. This method can be used when there is less detailed data over time. To apply this method, data about enrolment for each grade for two consecutive years, and data about students who repeat each grade from the first to second year is sufficient to estimate the three main flow rates: promotion, repetition and drop-out. Once obtained, these rates may be analysed for each grade to study the patterns of repetition and drop-out. The student flow rates are used to create a reconstructed pupil-cohort flow and to derive other indicators of internal efficiency.
The term ‘efficiency’ is borrowed from economists. it is defined as the optimal relationship between inputs and outputs. An efficient activity is one in which an optimum level of output is obtained for a given input. educational planners have adapted the term and applied it to an education system.
The concept of the ‘pupil year’ is a convenient, non-monetary way of measuring inputs. One pupil year stands for all the resources spent to keep one pupil in school for one year. it represents one year’s worth of education and accompanying expenditure. Two pupil years, for example, represent the resources needed to keep one pupil in school for two years. if a pupil repeats a grade, the pupil is getting only one year’s worth of education, but consuming two years’ worth of expenditure. if it takes six years to qualify for a certain diploma, a pupil who has dropped out of school after only three years has used three years’ worth of expenditure but failed to obtain the qualifying diploma. in the analysis of efficiency, repeaters and drop-outs represent wastage.
As pupils flow through the educational cycle, inputs are defined and measured in terms of pupil years. By dividing total expenditure on education by total pupil years, we can obtain an estimate of unit cost (cost per pupil). inversely, by multiplying pupil years by unit cost (cost per pupil), we can estimate the total cost.
Pupil flow through the education system
Since the principle is the same for all levels, it is possible to use the same analysis we applied at the primary level to trace the flow of students through secondary, and higher, grades of the education system. The objectives set for each level are compared with the results of the cohort analysis to see whether or not objectives have been met.
Three key rates are used to analyse the flow of pupils through the system: promotion, repetition and dropout rates.
Calculation of flow rates
What has happened to pupils enrolled in a particular grade the previous year? Three possible and mutually exclusive events might have occurred:
- A pupil may have been promoted to the next higher grade.
- A pupil may have repeated the same grade he/she was attending the previous year.
- A pupil may have abandoned schooling (left school for some reason).