absent teachers

Teacher absenteeism is a problem in many low-income countries. Timothy Taylor discusses an experimental attempt to improve teacher attendance in the tribal villages of Udaipur, India. Teachers at 60 ‘treated’ schools were asked to take time-stamped photos of their class at the beginning and end of each school day. Compliance (and non-compliance) was linked to pay. The researchers then compared absenteeism in the treated schools with absenteeism in 60 otherwise similar untreated schools.

The experiment was successful. Teachers responded to incentives, and absenteeism fell sharply: down from two of every five days to one of every five days. This is still a high rate of absenteeism, but the saddest part is that

the entire … study was carried out in “nonformal education centers,” rather than schools, and using “para-teachers,” rather than regular teachers. The reason is that in India, as in many other low- and middle-income countries, teachers are a highly organized labor group that politicians don’t dare to cross, and so proposals to increase the dismally low levels of teacher attendance don’t even happen in the regular school sector.

Timothy Taylor, “Teacher Attendance and Digital Cameras: An Experiment“, Conversable Economist, 15 June 2012.

Read the entire post, which is very informative. The main study, by Esther Duflo, Rema Hanna, and Stephen P. Ryan, was published in the June 2012 issue of the American Economic Review. An ungated version can be downloaded here.



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