Teacher absenteeism

To ensure education quality and student learning, addressing teacher absenteeism must be a top priority in each education system. Absenteeism is defined as ‘any failure of an employee to report for or to remain at work as scheduled, regardless of reason’ (Casio, 2003, cited in Rosenblatt and Shirom, 2006: 371). The reasons for teacher absenteeism can be encompassed in three main categories: authorized leaves, absences due to official duties and those without reason. In the first category, one can find maternity leaves, annual leaves, and medical leaves, among others. In the second one, one can find academic duties such as in-service teacher training; administrative duties such as submission of reports, marking national examinations or supporting national elections; and absences due to collecting salaries. In the third category, multiple issues are found such as tardiness, truancy, moonlighting, teacher strikes, ‘abscondment’, and ‘ghost teachers’ (ADEA WGEMPS, n.d.).

Teacher absenteeism is more prevalent in lower-income schools. Studies show that schools that have lower socioeconomic and minority students also have higher teacher absence rates and lower student test scores (Rogers and Vegas, 2009). High levels of absence undermine the quality of schooling and learning, reduce parent confidence in the school, and tend to reduce student attendance.

Key variables that affect teacher absenteeism include work environment, school characteristics such as educational level, size, income level, teacher health and job-related stress, as well as teaching experience. Failure to address teacher absenteeism further lowers teacher morale and sets low standards for other teachers. When teachers are absent without cause, the ability of teacher management systems to respond in an appropriate and timely manner is fundamental.

References
ADEA (Association for Development of Education in Africa’s) WGEMPS (Working Group on Education Management and Policy Support). n.d. Policy Brief, Reducing Teacher Absenteeism: Solutions for Africa. Harare: ADEA WGEMPS. Retrieved from: https://www.adeanet.org/en/policy-briefs/reducing-teacher-absenteeism-solutions-africa

Rogers, F.H.; Vegas, E. 2009. No More Cutting Class? Reducing Teacher Absence and Providing Incentives for Performance. Policy Research Working Paper No. 4847. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank. Retrieved from: https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/4043

Rosenblatt, Z.; Shirom, A. 2006. ‘School Ethnicity and Governance Influences on Work Absence of Teachers and School Administrators’. In: Educational Administration Quarterly, 42, 3, 361 384. Charlottesville: The University Council for Educational Administration. Retrieved from: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.536.8376&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Promising policy options

Develop a tracking system to monitor teacher absenteeism

Developing a tracking system to monitor teacher absenteeism allows each school to identify patterns of absenteeism, establish a form of accountability and take measures accordingly. Research has found that tracking systems must not rely solely on headteachers. For example, a study done in Ecuador highlighted how headteachers reported more than one-quarter of absent teachers as being present (Rogers and Vegas, 2009). Therefore, when possible, appointing an attendance improvement coordinator who establishes an information data system to track the teacher’s attendance is key (Smith, n.d.).

Local education offices must support the attendance improvement coordinator and, in its absence, the monitoring of teacher attendance in schools (UNCEN, UNIPA, SMERU, BPS, UNICEF, 2012). In addition to developing a tracking system, regular supervision in schools can be performed by local authorities and appointed stakeholders to reduce teacher absenteeism. For example, cluster monitors in The Gambia helped increase teacher attendance (Mulkeen, 2010). This support provided to schools and the monitoring of teacher attendance is particularly relevant in remote, rural schools (UNCEN, UNIPA, SMERU, BPS, UNICEF, 2012). In addition to recognising teachers’ absence, monitoring and supervision can also help identify issues such as ‘ghost teachers’ (paying teachers that do not exist), moonlighting (teachers holding more than one job), and ‘abscondment’ (teachers who leave their posts for other posts without any formal notification) (ADEA and WGEMPS, n.d.).

Empowering students, parents, and community members to monitor and report teacher absence is an effective strategy (Karamperidou et al., 2020; UNCEN, UNIPA, SMERU, BPS, UNICEF, 2012). Indeed, research has shown that community and parents’ participation in monitoring teacher attendance, as well as effective school-based management (SBM) reforms, have increased teacher attendance (Karamperidou et al., 2020; UNCEN, UNIPA, SMERU, BPS, UNICEF, 2012). For instance, this was highlighted by the EDUCO programme in El Salvador, as well as School-based management projects in Honduras, Chile, Mexico and Nicaragua (Rogers and Vegas, 2009). To institutionalise parents’ and community members’ monitoring roles, community-based monitoring systems can be created (UNCEN, UNIPA, SMERU, BPS, UNICEF, 2012).

Monitoring depends highly on the degree of community’s involvement as well as the capacity and power that they have to take action against excessive absenteeism. Thus, it is key to raise awareness on the issue and build community members’ capacity to ensure effective monitoring (UNCEN, UNIPA, SMERU, BPS, UNICEF, 2012). It is also important to keep in mind the difficulties of implementing community monitoring in practice. For example, through the programme META –Mejor Educación a través de más Tiempo en el Aula– implemented in Peru in 2004, parents voluntarily monitored teacher attendance in schools three times a day. Although the research found that the programme was giving the expected results it was discontinued two years later because of logistical challenges (Cueto et al., 2008).

References
ADEA (Association for Development of Education in Africa’s) WGEMPS (Working Group on Education Management and Policy Support). n.d. Policy Brief, Reducing Teacher Absenteeism: Solutions for Africa. Harare: ADEA WGEMPS. Retrieved from: https://www.adeanet.org/en/policy-briefs/reducing-teacher-absenteeism-solutions-africa

Cueto, S.; Torero, M.; León, J.; Deustua, J. 2008. Asistencia docente y rendimiento escolar: el caso del programa META. Working Paper No. 53. Lima: GRADE (Grupo de Análisis para el Desarrollo). Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/23529904_Asistencia_docente_y_rendimiento_escolar_el_caso_del_Programa_META

Karamperidou, D.; Brossard, M.; Peirolo, S.; Richardson, D. 2020. Time to Teach: Teacher attendance and time on task in Eastern and Southern Africa. Florence: UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti. Retrieved from: https://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/Time-to-Teach-Report_Teacher-attendance-and-time-on-task-in-Eastern-and-Southern-Africa.pdf

Mulkeen, A. 2010a. ‘Chapter 8 Teacher Absence, Pay Distribution, and Discipline’. In: Teachers in Anglophone Africa: Issues in teacher supply, training, and management. Washington D.C.: The World Bank. Retrieved from: https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/13545?locale-attribute=es

Rogers, F.H.; Vegas, E. 2009. No More Cutting Class? Reducing Teacher Absence and Providing Incentives for Performance. Policy Research Working Paper No. 4847. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank. Retrieved from: https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/4043/WPS4847.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

Smith, G.G. n.d. ‘Increasing teacher attendance’. In: SubJournal. 2(1)8-16. Logan: Substitute Teaching Institute of the College of Education at Utah State University. Retrieved from: http://88pqz2md3zt3enasj4b54xk180s.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/IncreasingTeacherAttendance.pdf

UNCEN (Universitas Cendrawasih); UNIPA (Universitas Papua); SMERU (SMERU Research Institute); BPS (Badan Pusat Statistik); UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund). 2012. “We Like being taught”. A study on Teacher Absenteeism in Papua and West Papua. Retrieved from: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED566745.pdf

Disciplinary action to decrease absenteeism

Research shows that most school systems prefer ‘low-stakes’ disciplinary interventions to real disciplinary sanctions which might lead to dismissal (Mulkeen, 2010). For example, teachers’ pay could be based on the number of days that they were present or require them to pay a fine when they exceed the admitted leave days (Mulkeen, 2010). The latter is the case in Liberia, where teachers who are absent more than three days per month must pay a fine (Mulkeen, 2010). Another example is the programme implemented in Rajasthan, India, by the NGO Seva Mandir, where teachers earned bonuses for every day they attended above the required minimum and were fined for every day they did not attend below the required minimum (Duflo, Hanna and Ryan, 2012). Findings revealed that teachers’ absenteeism in Rajasthan decreased by half and students’ scores improved (Duflo, Hanna and Ryan, 2012).

Other important recommendations to combat teacher absenteeism are (NCTQ, 2014; Smith, n.d.; UNCEN, UNIPA, SMERU, BPS, UNICEF, 2012):

  • restrict leave on specific dates, such as ‘before or after holidays and vacations, during the first and last week of the school year, during state testing and/or on professional development days’ (NCTQ, 2014: 12);
  • demand medical certification to recognise sick leave;
  • conduct workshops explaining to teachers the effect of their absenteeism rates on students’ outcomes; and
  • design and implement a code of conduct (or review an existing one) to regulate teachers’ attendance misconducts as well as develop attendance guidelines.

To explore further

For more information on how to design and use teachers’ codes of conduct consult:

References
Poisson, M. 2009. Guidelines for the design and effective use of teachers codes of conduct. IIEP-UNESCO: Paris. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000185010
References
Duflo E.; Hanna R.; Ryan, S.P. 2012. ‘Incentives work: getting teachers to come to school’. In: American Economic Review, 102(4), 1241-1278. Retrieved from: https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/aer.102.4.1241

Mulkeen, A. 2010a. ‘Chapter 8 Teacher Absence, Pay Distribution, and Discipline’. In: Teachers in Anglophone Africa: Issues in teacher supply, training, and management. Washington D.C.: The World Bank. Retrieved from: https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/13545?locale-attribute=es

NCTQ (The National Council on Teacher Quality). 2014. Roll call: The importance of teacher attendance. Washington, D.C.: NCTQ. Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/dmsView/RollCall_TeacherAttendance

Smith, G.G. n.d. ‘Increasing teacher attendance’. In: SubJournal. 2(1)8-16. Logan: Substitute Teaching Institute of the College of Education at Utah State University. Retrieved from: http://88pqz2md3zt3enasj4b54xk180s.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/IncreasingTeacherAttendance.pdf

UNCEN (Universitas Cendrawasih); UNIPA (Universitas Papua); SMERU (SMERU Research Institute); BPS (Badan Pusat Statistik); UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund). 2012. “We Like being taught”. A study on Teacher Absenteeism in Papua and West Papua. Retrieved from: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED566745.pdf

Pecuniary and non-pecuniary incentives to complement monitoring and supervising systems

Research has found that pecuniary incentives can increase teacher attendance, as highlighted by the META programme implemented in Peru (Guerrero et al., 2012) and the programme implemented by the NGO Seva Mandir in Rajasthan, India (Duflo, Hanna and Ryan, 2012). Pecuniary incentives can include paying teachers their ‘unused sick leave’ at the end of each school year or at retirement (NCTQ, 2014: 12). Another strategy is to provide bonuses to teachers with exemplary attendance (NCTQ, 2014; Miller, Murnane, and Willett, 2008; Rogers and Vegas, 2009).

Non-pecuniary incentives can also help reduce teacher absenteeism, it is key to ensure that all teachers are accessing them, particularly those located in marginalised and remote areas. For instance, establishing a motivating career structure where attendance plays a key role in teacher’s evaluations and promotions can help reduce teacher absenteeism (Crehan, L. 2016; NCTQ, 2014; UNCEN, UNIPA, SMERU, BPS, UNICEF, 2012). Other innovative ideas, such as providing ticket vouchers for events or conferences to teachers respecting attendance goals, can also be implemented (NCTQ, 2014). Providing food assistance is also a common incentive (UNCEN, UNIPA, SMERU, BPS, UNICEF, 2012).

Providing quality housing near or within schools is a key strategy, ‘highly associated with teachers’ capacity to report to school without fail and on time’ (Karamperidou et al., 2020). Through the research project Time to Teach (TTT), implemented in eight countries and territories in Eastern and Southern Africa, researchers found that ‘[t]eachers who cited distance to school as a reason for absenteeism were 1.5 times more likely to be absent from school and 2.8 times more likely to arrive to school late or leave school early than teachers who did not report distance to school as a reason for being absent’ (Karamperidou et al., 2020: 37). Various countries such as Papua New Guinea, Uganda, and Rwanda have thus constructed and provided housing facilities to teachers nearby schools (Rogers and Vargas, 2009; Karamperidou et al., 2020). Ministries of Education must ensure that teachers in remote, rural areas are benefiting in particular from this type of strategy (UNCEN, UNIPA, SMERU, BPS, UNICEF, 2012). When housing provision is not possible, providing adequate transportation to teachers is key, particularly to those serving remote, rural areas (Karamperidou et al., 2020; ACDP, 201; Rogers and Vegas, 2009).

Providing quality school infrastructure, particularly WASH facilities and electricity, has also been found to be a determinant factor for teacher attendance (Barrett et al., 2019.; UNCEN, UNIPA, SMERU, BPS, UNICEF, 2012). Research in Bangladesh, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Peru and Uganda showcased how ‘moving from a school with the lowest infrastructure index score to one with the highest (that is, from a score of zero to five) is associated with a 10-percentage point reduction in teacher absence’ (Chaudhury et al. 2006 as cited in Barrett et al., 2019: 17). It is key to pay particular attention to school infrastructure serving marginalised populations to ensure they are not doubly disadvantaged.

*For more on this subject, see Policy page School infrastructure.

References
ACDP (Analytical and Capacity Development Partnership). 2014. Study on Teacher Absenteeism in Indonesia. Chapter 10: Policy Implications. Retrieved from: https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/publication/176315/ino-study-teacher-absenteeism-2014.pdf

Barrett, P.; Treves, A.; Shmis, T.; Ambasz, D.; Ustinova, M. 2019. The Impact of School Infrastructure on Learning: A Synthesised of the Evidence. International Development in Focus. Washington, DC: World Bank. Retrieved from: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED604388.pdf

Crehan, L. 2016. Exploring the impact of career models on teacher motivation. Paris: IIEP-UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000246252_eng

Duflo E.; Hanna R.; Ryan, S.P. 2012. ‘Incentives work: getting teachers to come to school’. In: American Economic Review, 102(4), 1241-1278. Retrieved from: https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/aer.102.4.1241

Guerrero, G.; Leon, J.; Zapata, M.; Sugimaru, C.; Cueto, S. 2012. What works to improve teacher attendance in developing countries? A systematic review. London: EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London. Retrieved from: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/57a08a6040f0b652dd0006da/Q39Teacher_attendance_2012Guerrero.pdf

Karamperidou, D.; Brossard, M.; Peirolo, S.; Richardson, D. 2020. Time to Teach: Teacher attendance and time on task in Eastern and Southern Africa. Florence: UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti. Retrieved from: https://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/Time-to-Teach-Report_Teacher-attendance-and-time-on-task-in-Eastern-and-Southern-Africa.pdf

Miller, R.T.; Murnane, R.J.; Willett, J.B. 2008. ‘Do Teacher Absences Impact Student Achievement? Longitudinal Evidence From One Urban School District’. In: Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, vol. 30, No. 2, pp. 181-200. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.3102/0162373708318019

NCTQ (The National Council on Teacher Quality). 2014. Roll call: The importance of teacher attendance. Washington, D.C.: NCTQ. Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/dmsView/RollCall_TeacherAttendance

Rogers, F.H.; Vegas, E. 2009. No More Cutting Class? Reducing Teacher Absence and Providing Incentives for Performance. Policy Research Working Paper No. 4847. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank. Retrieved from: https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/4043/WPS4847.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

UNCEN (Universitas Cendrawasih); UNIPA (Universitas Papua); SMERU (SMERU Research Institute); BPS (Badan Pusat Statistik); UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund). 2012. “We Like being taught”. A study on Teacher Absenteeism in Papua and West Papua. Retrieved from: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED566745.pdf

Teacher motivation and satisfaction

Teacher motivation is a substantial factor in increasing teacher attendance, with several factors contributing to high morale in a work environment. All teachers must be treated fairly and equally and they should be valued, appreciated and recognized for their work.

Fair wages and career structures also play an essential role in teachers’ motivation.

It is also key to improve work conditions for employees and implement supporting measures, such as granting small salary increases, providing assistance in specific tasks, such as student discipline, and giving feedback on classroom practices and performance, among others (Smith, n.d.). It is also key to provide adequate teaching and learning materials, as ‘limited TLMs are associated with classroom absenteeism and reduced time on task’ (Karamperidou et al., 2020).

Improving the school environment overall is key to haul teachers’ intrinsic motivation and commitment to the profession. This can be done, for instance, by letting teachers have autonomy over their work and encouraging good relationships and collaboration opportunities between colleagues, among others (Crehan, L. 2016). (For more information consult Policy page School climate).

Concerning teachers who are returning from their leave, they should be welcomed back and recognized for being back. Teacher burnout can contribute to teacher absenteeism, so when absenteeism is related to this issue, the following can be considered (according to Leithwood, 1998 as cited in Smith, n.d.):

  • Support teachers to identify and meet short-term individual progress goals as well as the school’s improvement goals.
  • Alternate teachers’ classroom duties.
  • Provide adequate financial and material resources.
References
Crehan, L. 2016. Exploring the impact of career models on teacher motivation. Paris: IIEP-UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000246252_eng

Karamperidou, D.; Brossard, M.; Peirolo, S.; Richardson, D. 2020. Time to Teach: Teacher attendance and time on task in Eastern and Southern Africa. Florence: UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti. Retrieved from: https://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/Time-to-Teach-Report_Teacher-attendance-and-time-on-task-in-Eastern-and-Southern-Africa.pdf

Smith, G.G. n.d. ‘Increasing teacher attendance’. In: SubJournal. 2(1)8-16. Logan: Substitute Teaching Institute of the College of Education at Utah State University. Retrieved from: http://88pqz2md3zt3enasj4b54xk180s.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/IncreasingTeacherAttendance.pdf

Strong local or central management system

Develop a strong local or central management system to regulate teacher absenteeism and create mechanisms to place substitute teachers when needed (ADEA and WGEMPS, n.d.).

Teacher management systems must minimise official administrative absences, for instance by ensuring that professional development opportunities occur outside teaching hours or that substitute teachers are present if done during school hours (Karamperidou et al., 2020; UNCEN, UNIPA, SMERU, BPS, UNICEF, 2012).

Teacher management systems must also ensure teachers’ adequate payment, as this is a high determinant factor to teachers’ absenteeism (Karamperidou et al., 2020). Different payment methods for teachers, particularly for those in remote rural areas, have to be explored and provided, and existing barriers must be removed (such as obliging teachers to travel long distances to collect their salary) (Karamperidou et al., 2020; Niang, 2017). For instance, alternative, innovative solutions such as electronic or mobile banking platforms, or implementing a traditional paycheck system can be explored (Karamperidou et al., 2020; ADEA and WGEMPS, n.d.). For more on this subject, see Policy page Logistical constraints in paying teachers.

In addition to management systems, it is crucial to create ‘a stable pool of substitutes to reduce the detrimental impacts of unexpected teacher absences’ (Miller, Murnane and Willett, 2008: 196). Although this is a costly measure, and it would be best to address teacher absenteeism, it is also key to provide quality teacher substitutes so that children’s learning is not impaired in the absence of the regular teacher (Miller, Murnane and Willett, 2008; Karamperidou et al., 2020; UNCEN, UNIPA, SMERU, BPS, UNICEF, 2012). This measure must be complemented by ensuring that regular teachers leave quality lesson plans to their substitutes (Miller, Murnane and Willett, 2008).

References
ADEA (Association for Development of Education in Africa’s) WGEMPS (Working Group on Education Management and Policy Support). n.d. Policy Brief, Reducing Teacher Absenteeism: Solutions for Africa. Harare: ADEA WGEMPS. Retrieved from: https://www.adeanet.org/en/policy-briefs/reducing-teacher-absenteeism-solutions-africa

Karamperidou, D.; Brossard, M.; Peirolo, S.; Richardson, D. 2020. Time to Teach: Teacher attendance and time on task in Eastern and Southern Africa. Florence: UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti. Retrieved from: https://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/Time-to-Teach-Report_Teacher-attendance-and-time-on-task-in-Eastern-and-Southern-Africa.pdf

Miller, R.T.; Murnane, R.J.; Willett, J.B. 2008. ‘Do Teacher Absences Impact Student Achievement? Longitudinal Evidence From One Urban School District’. In: Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, vol. 30, No. 2, pp. 181-200. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.3102/0162373708318019

Niang, F. 2017. Accountability in education: Meeting our commitments. Accountability, Instructional Time Loss and the Impact on Quality Education: A Senegalese primary education case study. Paris: Global Education Monitoring Report. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0025/002595/259574e.pdf

UNCEN (Universitas Cendrawasih); UNIPA (Universitas Papua); SMERU (SMERU Research Institute); BPS (Badan Pusat Statistik); UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund). 2012. “We Like being taught”. A study on Teacher Absenteeism in Papua and West Papua. Retrieved from: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED566745.pdf

Ensure good leadership within the school

Headteachers’ leadership is essential to control and reduce teacher absenteeism. Headteachers should explain attendance expectations to teachers at the beginning of the school year (Knoster, 2016). They should also involve teachers in developing clear absence guidelines as well as attendance improvement plans (Smith, n.d.).

Requiring teachers to speak directly to headteachers –or attendance improvement coordinators– for sick leaves can also help to reduce teacher absenteeism (NCTQ, 2014; Finlayson, 2009; Miller, Murnane, and Willett, 2008). Even though this might increase headteachers’ workload, it is found to be very effective in reducing teacher absenteeism, much more than through centralised reporting system (NCTQ, 2014; Miller, Murnane, and Willett, 2008).

References
Finlayson, M. 2009. ‘The Impact of Teacher Absenteeism on Student Performance: The Case of the Cobb County School District’. In: Dissertations, Theses and Capstone Projects. Paper 4. Retrieved from: https://digitalcommons.kennesaw.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1006&context=etd#:~:text=When%20that%20teacher%20is%20repeatedly,to%20score%20on%20standardized%20tests.&text=Cobb%20County%20School%20District%20teachers,average%2014%20days%20per%20year.

Karamperidou, D.; Brossard, M.; Peirolo, S.; Richardson, D. 2020. Time to Teach: Teacher attendance and time on task in Eastern and Southern Africa. Florence: UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti. Retrieved from: https://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/Time-to-Teach-Report_Teacher-attendance-and-time-on-task-in-Eastern-and-Southern-Africa.pdf

Knoster, K.C. 2016. Strategies for Addressing Student and Teacher Absenteeism: A Literature Review. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, North Central Comprehensive Center. Retrieved from: http://nccc.mcrel.org/assets/nccc_absenteeism_report.pdf

Miller, R.T.; Murnane, R.J.; Willett, J.B. 2008. ‘Do Teacher Absences Impact Student Achievement? Longitudinal Evidence From One Urban School District’. In: Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, vol. 30, No. 2, pp. 181-200. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.3102/0162373708318019

NCTQ (The National Council on Teacher Quality). 2014. Roll call: The importance of teacher attendance. Washington, D.C.: NCTQ. Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/dmsView/RollCall_TeacherAttendance

Smith, G.G. n.d. ‘Increasing teacher attendance’. In: SubJournal. 2(1)8-16. Logan: Substitute Teaching Institute of the College of Education at Utah State University. Retrieved from: http://88pqz2md3zt3enasj4b54xk180s.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/IncreasingTeacherAttendance.pdf

Other policy options

Information and communication technologies

Use information and communication technologies (ICT) to report teacher absenteeism on a daily basis in schools. For instance:

  • Cameras can be used to provide date- and time-stamped photographs. This strategy was implemented in Rajasthan, India (Duflo, Hanna and Ryan, 2012).
  • Cell-phones can be used to track absenteeism. This strategy was implemented in The Gambia where a mobile platform was developed to track teacher absenteeism (ADEA WGEMPS, n.d.).
  • Electronic systems can also be developed for that purpose. An example is the Human Capital Leave Management System HC-LMS implemented in South Africa (ADEA WGEMPS, n.d.).
  • Biometric fingerprint controls can be implemented instead of traditional logbooks. This strategy was put in place in Gujarat, India (Cooper, Jeeva, and Honeyman, 2017; Cooper, 2013).

Although research has found that using ICT to monitor teacher absenteeism has increased teacher attendance, they still pose multiple challenges, the most important one being teacher unions’ resistance (e.g. South Africa’s HC-LMS program was rejected by teacher unions (ADEA WGEMPS, n.d.)). Additionally, logistical conditions such as internet availability, electricity supply, cameras and phones available also pose a problem. Lastly, with limited budgets, the costs that represent the implementation of such methods may make their implementation unfeasible.

References
ADEA (Association for Development of Education in Africa’s) WGEMPS (Working Group on Education Management and Policy Support). n.d. Policy Brief, Reducing Teacher Absenteeism: Solutions for Africa. Harare: ADEA WGEMPS. Retrieved from: https://www.adeanet.org/en/policy-briefs/reducing-teacher-absenteeism-solutions-africa

Cooper, R. 2013. Teacher Absenteeism and Accountability in Southern Rural Gujarat. Retrieved from: https://nanubhai.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Teacher-Absenteeism-and-Accountability-in-Southern-Rural-Gujarat.pdf

Cooper, R.; Jeeva, S.; Honeyman, C. 2017. Technologies to improve teacher attendance and motivation. Debate –  IIEP-UNESCO Learning Portal. Accessed 14 May 2018: https://learningportal.iiep.unesco.org/en/blog/technologies-to-improve-teacher-attendance-and-motivation

Duflo E.; Hanna R.; Ryan, S.P. 2012. ‘Incentives work: getting teachers to come to school’. In: American Economic Review, 102(4), 1241-1278. Retrieved from: https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/aer.102.4.1241

Mentoring

A study in New York City found evidence that teacher mentoring might reduce absence, however, further exploration of this topic is needed (Rockoff, 2008, as cited in Rogers and Vegas, 2009).

References
Rogers, F.H.; Vegas, E. 2009. No More Cutting Class? Reducing Teacher Absence and Providing Incentives for Performance. Policy Research Working Paper No. 4847. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank. Retrieved from: https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/4043/WPS4847.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

Shorter school week

Implementing a 4-day (or 4.5 days) school week has been found to increase teacher attendance rates as it gives additional time for professional development opportunities and teacher planning. It also decreases the need for substitute teachers. Nevertheless, such arrangements can be considered controversial, which is why further research and context-based solutions are needed (e.g. France’s four-week day controversy). It is also necessary to keep in mind that this type of arrangement might imply including extra time to the remaining school days to meet annual instruction time requirements. For instance, in the United States, around 560 districts in 25 states have included extra time to the remaining four days in school. The OECD points out an average of 799 hours of compulsory instruction time per year in its member states (OECD, 2018: 334).

References
OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). 2018. ‘Chapter D: Teachers, the Learning Environment and the Organization of Schools, Indicator D1: How much time do students spend in the classroom’. In: Education at a Glance 2018: OECD Indicators (pp. 333-349). Paris: OECD Publishing. Retrieved from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/eag-2018-en

Hire ‘para-teachers’

‘Para-teachers’ or ‘contract teachers’ are teachers ‘who are hired on short, flexible contracts to work in primary schools and in non-formal education centres (NFEs) that are run by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and local governments’ (Duflo E.; Hanna R.; Ryan, S.P. 2012:1241). ‘Para-teachers’ can be easily monitored and supervised as they ‘do not form an entrenched constituency, they are already subject to yearly renewal of their contract, and there is a long queue of qualified job applicants.’ (2012:1242). Therefore, by employing them and providing them with incentives, teacher absenteeism could be reduced. Yet, keep in mind that this type of policy poses significative parallel challenges, for instance, it can lead to tensions with regular teachers –civil servants–  and affect the quality of education, as much as the respect given to the teaching profession.

References
Duflo E.; Hanna R.; Ryan, S.P. 2012. ‘Incentives work: getting teachers to come to school’. In: American Economic Review, 102(4), 1241-1278. Retrieved from: https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/aer.102.4.1241

Policy options for improving Equity and Inclusion

Gender-responsive policies

Promising policy options

All of the policies and strategies previously recommended apply for this category. However, when designing and implementing the aforementioned policies, educational planners, policymakers and school managers should analyse if there are underlying gender issues affecting and leading to higher absenteeism rates and thus target policy options accordingly. In some contexts, female teachers’ absenteeism rates are higher than males’ (Bennell et al., 2002 cited by Guerrero et al., 2012; Chaudhury et al., 2006, cited by Nedungadi, Mulki and Raman, 2017) while in other contexts, male teachers’ absenteeism rates are higher than females’ (Indonesia, 2014).

References
Best, A.; Tournier B.; Chimier C. 2018. Topical questions on teacher management. Paris : IIEP-UNESCO . Retrieved from: www.iiep.unesco.org/sites/default/files/topical_questions_on_teache r_management_english.pdf

Guerrero, G.; Leon, J.; Zapata, M.; Sugimaru, C.; Cueto, S. 2012. What works to improve teacher attendance in developing countries? A systematic review. London: EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London. Retrieved from: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/57a08a6040f0b652dd0006da/Q39Teacher_attendance_2012Guerrero.pdf

Indonesia. 2014. Ministry of Education and Culture. Study on Teacher Absenteeism in Indonesia 2014. Jakarta: Ministry of Education and Culture. Retrieved from: https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/publication/176315/ino-study-teacher-absenteeism-2014.pdf

Nedungadi, P.; Mulki K.; Raman R. 2017. Improving educational outcomes & reducing absenteeism at remote villages with mobile technology and WhatsAPP: Findings from rural India. New York: Springer. Retrieved from: https://www.amrita.edu/system/files/publications/improving-educational-outcomes-reducing-absenteeism-at-remote-villages-with-mobile-technology-and-whatsappfindings-from-rural-india_2.pdf

Suryahadi, A.; Sambodho, P. 2013. Assessment of Policies to Improve Teacher Quality and Reduce Teacher Absenteeism. Jakarta: The SMERU Research Institute. Retrieved from: https://media.neliti.com/media/publications/51116-EN-assessment-of-policies-to-improve-teacher-quality-and-reduce-teacher-absenteeism.pdf

Policies for children with disabilities

Promising policy options

Children with disabilities are one of the most marginalized and vulnerable members of society (UNICEF, 2013). Teacher absenteeism affects every student’s learning process, but especially that of students with disabilities, who already face multiple barriers in schooling and learning. Particular attention should be therefore given to this issue. Policy-makers, educational planners, school management and teachers themselves must make sure that every minute that a student with disability spends in the classroom is used to its fullest potential.

In order to tackle the issue, all of the previously recommended policies and strategies apply.

References
Fernando M. Reimers. Teachers for Migrants’ and Refugees’ Rights. Educating refugees: an opportunity for teachers’ voice and leadership. Accessed on 24 May, 2019. https://www.education4refugees.org/blog/288-educating-refugees-an-opportunity-for-teachers-voice-and-leadership

UNESCO. 2016. Global Education Monitoring Report Gender Review: Creating Sustainable Futures for All. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000246045

UNESCO. n.d. Enforcing the right to education of Refugees: Policy perspective. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000146931?posInSet=22&queryId=71a0a70a-ea47-49f4-88f3-9c737d27f0ca

Policies for displaced populations

Promising policy options

While there is no specific literature on reducing absenteeism of teachers serving displaced populations, it is a very relevant issue to ensure adequate learning processes for these already vulnerable members of society. All the policies and strategies recommended in the general section of the present Policy page apply to this category. In addition, gathering knowledge on ‘the unique challenges these teachers face’ is key to ‘better understand the idiosyncratic factors that may affect their attendance’ (Karamperidou et al., 2020: 49). For instance, research highlighted that in West and Central Africa, the ‘the lack of training and difficult employment conditions’ lead to frequent teacher absenteeism (UNHCR RBWCA, 2021: 5). Thus, improving teachers’ working conditions, delivering adequate teacher training, as well as providing incentives and adequate salaries is essential to boost their motivation and ensure their attendance (for more information consult Policy page Appropriate teacher candidates and Teacher incentives). Moreover, displaced community members and students can be empowered to hold teachers accountable for their absence or tardiness, which can in turn help decrease their absenteeism rates (UNICEF, 2014). This strategy was implemented in Nepal’s programme Schools as Zone of Peace (SZOP), where child clubs within the schools ‘worked to minimize teacher absenteeism and increase teachers’ regularity in school by pointing out to them if they were late or absent’ (UNICEF, 2014: 22).

References
Karamperidou, D.; Brossard, M.; Peirolo, S.; Richardson, D. 2020. Time to Teach: Teacher attendance and time on task in Eastern and Southern Africa. Florence: UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti. Retrieved from: https://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/Time-to-Teach-Report_Teacher-attendance-and-time-on-task-in-Eastern-and-Southern-Africa.pdf

UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees). 2001. Learning for a Future: Refugee Education in Developing Countries. Retrieved from: https://www.unhcr.org/4a1d5ba36.pdf

UNHCR RBWCA (United Nations High Commission for Refugees Regional Bureau for West & Central Africa). 2021. Education Update 2020-2021 School Year. Regional Overview and Education Trends. Retrieved from: https://reporting.unhcr.org/sites/default/files/RBWCA_Education%20Update%20July%202021.pdf

UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund). 2014. Child-Friendly Schooling for Peacebuilding. New York: UNICEF. Retrieved from: https://inee.org/system/files/resources/Child_Friendly_Schooling_for_Peacebuilding_%28English%29.pdf

Other policy options

Provide counselling and mental health support to reduce teacher absenteeism

Providing mental health support to teachers in crisis-settings is of key importance. Indeed, research has shown that the ‘threat of violence reduces educators’ intrinsic motivation and affects their school presence’ (Karamperidou et al., 2020: 9). Through a strong collaborative approach with the health sector, ministries of education can provide the required mental health support to all school staff, particularly teachers, and students. This can have positive effects on teacher attendance and on their classroom practices (Karamperidou et al., 2020).

References
Karamperidou, D.; Brossard, M.; Peirolo, S.; Richardson, D. 2020. Time to Teach: Teacher attendance and time on task in Eastern and Southern Africa. Florence: UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti. Retrieved from: https://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/Time-to-Teach-Report_Teacher-attendance-and-time-on-task-in-Eastern-and-Southern-Africa.pdf

Policies for minority populations

Promising policy options

A wide number of studies have highlighted that minority populations, particularly those living in poor, rural, remote areas, are the most exposed and affected by teacher absenteeism (Karamperidou et al., 2020: Cheng and Moses, 2016; ACDP, 2014; NCTQ, 2014; Miller, 2012; UNCEN, UNIPA, SMERU, BPS, UNICEF, 2012; Rogers and Vegas, 2009; Miller, Murnane, and Willett, 2008; Clotfelter, Ladd, Vigdor, 2007). From an equity standpoint, it is key that educational policies address teacher absenteeism while paying particular attention to those serving minority populations. For this purpose, all of the different policies and strategies recommended in the general section of the present Policy page apply to this category. In addition, to address teacher absenteeism issues, decision-makers and educational planners must ensure equitable teacher recruitment and allocation, so that sufficient quality teachers are allocated to marginalised, poor, remote and rural areas where the majority of minority populations dwell (Clotfelter, Ladd, Vigdor, 2007; Karamperidou et al., 2020; UNCEN, UNIPA, SMERU, BPS, UNICEF, 2012).

* For more information consult Policy pages Equitable teacher distribution.

References
ACDP (Analytical and Capacity Development Partnership). 2014. Study on Teacher Absenteeism in Indonesia. Chapter 10: Policy Implications. Retrieved from: https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/publication/176315/ino-study-teacher-absenteeism-2014.pdf

Cheng, X.J.; Moses, K. 2016. Promoting transparency through information: A global review of school report cards. Paris: IIEP-UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://www.iiep.unesco.org/sites/default/files/promoting_transparency_through_information.pdf

Clotfelter, C.T.; Ladd, H.F.; Vigdor, J.L. 2007. Are teacher absences worth worrying about in the U.S.? NBER Working Paper No. 13648. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved from: http://www.nber.org/papers/w13648

Karamperidou, D.; Brossard, M.; Peirolo, S.; Richardson, D. 2020. Time to Teach: Teacher attendance and time on task in Eastern and Southern Africa. Florence: UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti. Retrieved from: https://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/Time-to-Teach-Report_Teacher-attendance-and-time-on-task-in-Eastern-and-Southern-Africa.pdf

Miller, R. 2012. Teacher Absence as a Leading Indicator of Student Achievement. Accessed 4 January 2022:https://www.americanprogress.org/article/teacher-absence-as-a-leading-indicator-of-student-achievement/

Miller, R.T.; Murnane, R.J.; Willett, J.B. 2008. ‘Do Teacher Absences Impact Student Achievement? Longitudinal Evidence From One Urban School District’. In: Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, vol. 30, No. 2, pp. 181-200. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.3102/0162373708318019

NCTQ (The National Council on Teacher Quality). 2014. Roll call: The importance of teacher attendance. Washington, D.C.: NCTQ. Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/dmsView/RollCall_TeacherAttendance

Rogers, F.H.; Vegas, E. 2009. No More Cutting Class? Reducing Teacher Absence and Providing Incentives for Performance. Policy Research Working Paper No. 4847. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank. Retrieved from: https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/4043/WPS4847.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

UNCEN (Universitas Cendrawasih); UNIPA (Universitas Papua); SMERU (SMERU Research Institute); BPS (Badan Pusat Statistik); UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund). 2012. “We Like being taught”. A study on Teacher Absenteeism in Papua and West Papua. Retrieved from: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED566745.pdf

Policies for OVCs and HIV affected populations

Promising policy options

Comprehensive HIV/AIDS education sector workplace policy and programs

HIV/AIDS work place policies should be developed with key stakeholders, such as teacher unions, HIV positive teacher networks, civil society, and community organizations. In line with the ILO Code of Practice on HIV/AIDS and the workplace, these policies should cover issues including:

  • medical support, including prevention and treatment services. (Crucially, access to ARVs, and VCTs );
  • care services including counseling and psychological support (counsellors can make regular school visits);
  • deployment and transfers (provisions for teachers needing closer access to health care services);
  • teaching coverage, sickness, absence provisions and reintegration into work after leave;
  • recruitment, promotion and retirement provisions (there should be no requirement of HIV screening);
  • alternative working arrangements (such as increased flexibility in working hours, changing responsibilities); and
  • protection from discrimination, addressing issues of HIV status disclosure, and confidentiality.

Teachers should be made widely aware of these policies and all of the services available to them. In some cases, countries that have had grants available for treatment costs were underutilized because teachers’ did not know that they existed (UNESCO, 2008b). Teacher unions can aid the Ministries of Education in disseminating policies and relevant information about services available.

Implementation of HIV/AIDS workplace policy can be supported by:

  • sufficient training and capacity development of headteachers and school leaders;
  • institutional framework, especially concerning the management of human and financial resources;
  • a functioning grievance mechanism, with no fear of retribution;
  • collaboration with teacher unions, Ministry of Labor, and HIV positive teacher networks; and
  • consideration of the specific needs of teachers, considering factors such as sex, location, and level of access to services.
References
IIEP UNESCO. 2005. Towards an AIDS-Free generation. The global initiative on HIV/AIDS and education: Briefs for decision – makers. Paris: IIEP UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/in/rest/annotationSVC/DownloadWatermarkedAttachment/attach_import_bcbe762f-1d39-4f58-9a0f-0d1af6ab25ca?_=139831eng.pdf

ILO. 2001. An ILO code of practice on HIV/AIDS and the world of work. Geneva: International Labor Organization. Retrieved from: https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_protect/—protrav/—ilo_aids/documents/publication/wcms_113783.pdf

ILO. 2003. Implementing the ILO code of practice on HIV/AIDS and the world of work: an education and training manual. Geneva: International Labor Organization. Retrieved from: https://www.ilo.org/global/publications/ilo-bookstore/order-online/books/WCMS_PUBL_9221134628_EN/lang–en/index.htm

Kenya. 2007. Teachers Service Commission. Teacher service commission sub-sector workplace policy on HIV and AIDS. Retrieved from: https://hivhealthclearinghouse.unesco.org/library/documents/teachers-service-commission-sub-sector-workplace-policy-hiv-and-aids

UNESCO. 2008a. Booklet 3: Educator development and support. Good policy and practice in HIV & AIDS and education (booklet series). Paris, UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://www.hivpolicy.org/Library/HPP001591.pdf

UNESCO. 2008b.EDUCAIDS technical briefs. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000158436

Teacher training institutions educate on HIV/AIDS issues, provide support and access to services

A key preventative measure is supplying teachers with HIV knowledge and support services during pre-service training, which also helps in reducing the discrimination and stigma surrounding HIV/AIDs, which can later affect teacher’s school environments as well as the values that they pass on to their students.

Mainstream HIV/AIDS into TTC institutional policies and programs by partnering with clinics, NGOs, civil society organizations to strengthen capacity, and utilize free training and ARV and VCT services. Facilitate access to VCT centers with free testing and counselling, condoms and reproductive and health services (usually health clinics provide referrals to local services). Get HIV/AIDS prevention integrated into curriculum, and tested in examinations.

Foster regional cooperation, such as regional inter-country information network to share best practices, funding financial assistance and scholarships to prevent teaching students from turning to transactional sex. Ministry of Education or regional office can reward model TTCs in their responses to HIV/AIDS, and share their best practices with other institutions.

References
Desalegn, A.; Getnet, T.; Cherinet, H. 2008. The response of teacher training institutions to HIV and AIDS: A case study of Ethiopia. Paris: IIEP UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000179865

Nzokia, C; Ramos, L. 2008. Training teachers in an HIV and AIDS context: Experiences from Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Zambia. Paris: IIEP UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000163605

Planning for the effects of HIV/AIDS on teacher supply and absenteeism

Strengthen EMIS to assess the impact of HIV related absenteeism, mortality and attrition and apply data in planning by having decentralized information systems monitoring teacher absenteeism, and attrition.

Raise the capacity of teacher training institutions based on projected supply constraints. For example, Guinea increased the output of its teacher training colleges tenfold, by shortening the duration of training courses (World Bank, 2006). However, attention must be paid to the effects on training quality.

References
Clarke, D.J. 2008. Heroes and villains: Teachers in the education response to HIV. Paris: IIEP UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000181572

IIEP UNESCO. 2005. Towards an AIDS-Free generation. The global initiative on HIV/AIDS and education: Briefs for decision – makers. Paris: IIEP UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/in/rest/annotationSVC/DownloadWatermarkedAttachment/attach_import_bcbe762f-1d39-4f58-9a0f-0d1af6ab25ca?_=139831eng.pdf

World Bank. 2006. Ensuring education access for orphans and vulnerable children: A planner’s handbook 2nd edition. Washington D.C.: World Bank. Retrieved from: http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/124021468333940631/Ensuring-education-access-for-orphans-and-vulnerable-children-a-planners-handbook

Policies for pastoralist and nomadic populations

All of the policies and strategies previously recommended apply for this category. While there is no specific literature on reducing absenteeism in pastoralist/nomadic schools, it is a very relevant issue for these populations, especially in poorly resourced areas, and underfunded alternative schools. Inadequate compensation for teachers in pastoralist/nomadic areas fuels the situation, as well as the lack of recognition of some alternative school teachers by the formal education system.

Updated on 2022-02-09

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