This paper uses data on 3,000 children in Vietnam, as well as on their siblings, to investigate the problem of children dropping out of school early or leaving straight after lower secondary education. Both quantitative and qualitative approaches are employed. We find that poor performance in class is the biggest predictor of children leaving school early. Household poverty and parental education are also important factors behind the probability of this phenomenon.
The most frequent reason given by parents for children ceasing to attend school is lack of interest. Our analysis shows that poverty is not an important determinant of lack of interest. Other factors, such as being from an ethnic minority or having a mother with a low level of schooling, however, are strongly associated with lack of interest in school. Furthermore, even though children may give one of several different reasons for leaving school early, qualitative evidence from our in-depth interviews with them points to the fact that the children's performance and their perception of the value of schooling are the most common ones.
Finally, our analysis of the pattern of time use suggests that the children who have stopped attending school and who do neither paid nor unpaid work spend a lot of time sleeping and/or on leisure activities, and that may be interpreted as evidence for limited opportunities for productive livelihoods.