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TEACHER ABSENCE IN INDIA: A SNAPSHOT

Teacher performance

Authors

Michael Kremer
Harvard University and NBER
Karthik Muralidharan
Harvard University
Nazmul Chaudhury
World Bank
Jeffrey Hammer
World Bank
F. Halsey Rogers
World Bank
 Journal of the European Economic Association (9/15/04)

Abstract
25% of teachers were absent from school, and only about half were teaching, during unannounced visits to a nationally representative sample of government primary schools in India. Absence rates varied from 15% in Maharashtra to 42% in Jharkhand, with higher rates concentrated in the poorer states. We do not find that higher pay is associated with lower absence. Older teachers, more educated teachers, and head teachers are all paid more but are also more frequently absent; contract teachers are paid much less than regular teachers but have similar absence rates; and although relative teacher salaries are higher in poorer states, absence rates are also higher. Teacher absence is more correlated with daily incentives to attend work: teachers are less likely to be absent at schools that have been inspected recently, that have better infrastructure, and that are closer to a paved road. We find little evidence that attempting to strengthen local community ties will reduce absence. Teachers from the local area have similar absence rates as teachers from outside the community. Locally controlled non-formal schools have higher absence rates than schools run by the state government. The existence of a PTA is not correlated with lower absence. Private-school teachers are only slightly less likely to be absent than public-school teachers in general, but are 8 percentage points less likely to be absent than public-school teachers in the same village.

Introduction
This paper presents new nationally representative data on teacher absence from unannounced visits to Indian primary schools. The study covered 20 Indian states, representing 98 percent of the population, or roughly one billion people. Three unannounced visits were made to each of 3700 schools. The survey focused on government-run primary schools, but it also covered rural private schools and private-aided schools located in villages where government schools were surveyed.
Our absence data is from direct physical verification of the teacher’s presence, rather than attendance logbooks or interviews with the head teacher. We consider a teacher to be absent if the investigator could not find the teacher in the school during regular working hours.

Conclusion

With one in four government primary school teachers absent on a given day, and only one in two actually teaching, India is wasting a considerable share of its education budget, and missing an opportunity to educate its children.
While our results show that the system is broken, they can provide only tentative guidance as to how it may be fixed. One way of interpreting our findings is that overall teacher compensation has little effect on absence, since teachers cannot be fired and attendance rates do not affect compensation. On the other hand, factors that influence the daily costs and benefits of attending school have a much larger influence on absence rates. For example, better infrastructure provides a stronger incentive to attend school on a particular day. Similarly, improving monitoring increases the marginal cost of teacher absence. While we find that inspections are associated with lower absence in some specifications, we find little evidence to suggest that greater local ties are associated with lower absence. Teachers in private schools and contract teachers, who face very different incentives, have similar or lower absence rates while being paid a fraction of government teachers’ salaries.
The study suggests it may be worth exploring a variety of potential reforms. These range in political difficulty from improving school infrastructure; to increasing the frequency of inspections; to experimenting with new, potentially more effective forms of local control or contracting with teachers; to such fundamental reforms as increased use of private schools. However, in order to assess the impact of any of these reforms, rigorous randomized evaluations should be put in place. Such evaluations should monitor a range of educational outcomes to ensure that these reforms not only increase the educational input of teacher attendance, but also the fundamental objective of student learning.

To read  more: http://siteresources.worldbank.org/DEC/Resources/36660_Teacher_absence_in_India_EEA_9_15_04_-_South_Asia_session_version.pdf

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