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Teacher absenteeism in Indonesia

A comprehensive new study reveals that teacher absenteeism in Indonesia is declining, and provides evidence for policy makers focused on improving teaching and learning, as Phil McKenzie explains.

Around one in 10 teachers are absent from school in Indonesia at any one time, according to a new study by the Australian Council for Educational Research and SMERU Research Institute supported by Cambridge Education.

The Study on Teacher Absenteeism in Indonesia 2014 report, published by the Education Sector Analytical and Capacity Development Partnership (ACDP), indicates that Indonesia has achieved significant progress over the past 10 years in reducing the absence of teachers from schools from 19 per cent in a national sample of primary schools surveyed in 2003 to 9.8 per cent in the same schools in 2014.

The study was commissioned by ACDP with the support of the Government of Indonesia, the Australian Government, the European Union and the Asian Development Bank, is one of the most comprehensive large-scale studies of teacher absenteeism undertaken anywhere in the world.

Trained teams collected information from around 900 sample schools on teacher absence, and observed classes, conducted interviews with principals and teachers, and administered short tests to samples of students.

Despite logistical difficulties, including irregular or non-existent transport; heavy rains, floods and landslides; and high waves and tides in some districts, the study successfully collected data from more than 8300 teachers and 8200 students. The teams conducted two visits to a sample of 893 primary and junior secondary schools in Sumatra, Java, Bali and Nusa Tenggara, Sulawesi, Kalimantan, and Papua and Maluku in late 2013 with a follow-up in early 2014, and included visits to 119 of 147 primary schools involved in a similar study conducted in 2003. The sample was designed to yield reliable estimates at the national and regional levels.

Declining teacher absenteeism

The report identifies a substantial and ‘encouraging’ decline in teacher absence rates over the past decade, but notes that the rate of teacher absence from class remains high. During the first visit to audit teacher attendance, 10 per cent of teachers were found to be absent from school, with 14 per cent absent from class. During the second visit, 11 per cent were absent from school, with 12 per cent absent from class.

Writing in the foreword to the report, Deputy Minister for Human Resources Development Dr Nina Sardjunani said ensuring that teachers are present and effective in teaching in the classroom is a continuing challenge. Dr Sardjunani noted that the study underscores three policy imperatives:

  • to ensure the school environment encourages and supports teachers to use their time outside of class more productively for the benefit of improving student learning;
  • to review the inequitable geographical distribution of teachers in the Indonesian education system; and
  • to strengthen support and supervision of the teaching and learning process.

Contextual factors

Teacher absence rates were found to vary widely among different types of teachers, and among regions and different types of schools. The fact that absence rates differed among schools with different types of characteristics suggests that policies which seek to change the conditions of schools can be effective in reducing absenteeism.

The study identified a number of differences in the rates of teacher absence from schools, including that:

  • schools in more rural and remote areas, particularly those with poor physical facilities, have higher absence rates than more urban schools;
  • schools where the principal is not present or does not provide a positive role model for teachers, and schools where there has not been a recent visit from the district education office have higher absence rates;
  • teachers who work in more than one school are significantly more likely to be absent than their peers who worked in only one school,;
  • teachers who were born outside of the province where their school is located are less likely to be absent than those who were born within the province;
  • teachers who rely on public transport to get to school from home are less likely to be absent than teachers who rely on private transport;
  • more experienced teachers and those with permanent civil servant status are less likely to be absent than contract teachers;
  • absence rates were higher in schools where there had not been a recent visit from the district education office; and
  • teachers were more likely to be absent in schools where the school committee had little engagement in monitoring the school budget or in connecting parents with the school.

Policy implications

The report calls for a reconsideration of current national policies on teachers’ working hours, so as to reduce the incentive for teachers to work at more than one school, and an expansion of current teacher standards to clarify non-teaching time and responsibilities.

Since the study found that teacher absence from school is not caused by teacher shortages, the report also calls for the more equitable distribution of teachers in the system. It also noted the importance of strengthening principal selection and competency developments, and providing schools with more support to improve the management of school schedules and teachers’ roles.

In terms of how to implement these changes, the report recommends further careful consideration and pilot studies to identify the relative benefits and costs of different policy options. ■

Further information:

Read the Study on Teacher Absenteeism in Indonesia 2014 report.
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A policy briefing paper is also available.
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The study was commissioned by the Education Sector Analytical and Capacity Development Partnership (ACDP), an initiative supported by the Government of Indonesia, the Australian Government, the European Union and the Asian Development Bank. The institutions responsible for implementation of the study were ACER and SMERU Research Institute supported by Cambridge Education.

The members of the study team who prepared the report were, from 
ACER, Phillip McKenzie (Team Leader), Dita Nugroho, Clare Ozolins and Julie McMillan; and, from 
SMERU, Sudarno Sumarto (Team Leader), Nina Toyamah, Vita Febriany, R. Justin Sodo, Luhur Bima and Armand Arief Sim.


About the author

Dr Phillip McKenzie is a former ACER Research Director. 

More [rd] articles by Phillip McKenzie

View selected works of Phillip McKenzie

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