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What works to improve teacher attendance in developing countries? A systematic review

What do we want to know?

The purpose of this paper is to report on a systematic review of research on the effectiveness of interventions aimed at increasing teacher attendance in developing countries, as measured by the rate of teacher attendance. Whenever data are available we also estimate the impact of these programmes on student achievement.

What did we find?

Although improving attendance was not straightforward, results provided evidence that a combination of better monitoring and powerful incentives seems effective in tackling teacher absenteeism. In that sense, it was interesting to note that the four interventions that succeeded in improving teacher attendance had some form of monitoring.

Most interventions aimed to increase teachers’ attendance by offering monetary incentives; only one tried to alter their workload to increase their satisfaction and eventually reduce absenteeism. However, factors such as improving the work environment or promoting professional development could also be considered as tools to improve teacher absenteeism. At the school and educational system level, there was an emphasis on creating and strengthening monitoring systems, but the impact of other relevant variables, such as group norms, school principal leadership and teacher administrative duties, could be tested in rigorous impact evaluations.

What are the implications?

Overall, it would seem that having a teacher in the classroom is an important but insufficient pre-requisite for improving achievement. The quality of the pedagogical processes within the classroom also needs to be considered (included studies did not provide information on what happened during the increased time of attendance).

Given the small number of included studies it is clear that more research on teacher absenteeism and its effect on student outcomes is needed. Establishing how, where and why teacher incentives programmes succeed or fail in increasing attendance and improving student achievement remains an important priority. Hence, future research needs to focus on interventions and studies that would not only increase teachers’ presence, but would also help them use this time in pedagogical activities so that student achievement is indeed increased.

How did we get these results?

We used the following inclusion criteria to identify potentially relevant primary studies: (i) scope: studies that examined the impact of programmes aimed at increasing teacher attendance/reducing teacher absenteeism (the inclusion of a measure of teacher attendance in the study was mandatory); (ii) geographical location: studies conducted in developing countries; (iii) population: studies carried out with teachers in primary or secondary education institutions; (iv) study design: quantitative studies using (a) experimental (randomised controlled trials [RCTs]) or (b) quasi-experimental designs (experiment with no random allocation to groups but adequate controls, e.g. instrumental variables, matching, and double and triple difference-in-difference studies); and (v) date: studies published from 1990 to July 2010, inclusive.

The EPPI Centre reference number for this report is 2010.

This report should be cited as:

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.
ISBN: 978-1-907345-39-5

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