Economics India

Monday, March 27, 2006


"A recent World Bank survey found that 25% of government primary school teachers in India are absent from work.

Only 50% of teachers are actually engaged in the act of teaching while at work, according to researchers.

These statistics represent average numbers taken across many states. The numbers are not so harsh across all of India and several Indian states fare much better.

The survey is part of a broader World Bank research project on absenteeism, which set out to measure how widespread the problem is in six countries in the world, including India and Bangladesh.

Survey teams paid unexpected visits to random primary schools and health clinics. They recorded that on average 19% of teachers and 35% of health workers weren’t at work on the surveyed day in the six countries.

Teachers and health workers are extremely unlikely to be fired for absence, researchers found. Only 1 in 3,000 head teachers had ever fired a teacher for repeated absence.

Better pay also doesn’t lower absenteeism. Older teachers, more educated teachers, and head teachers have better salaries but are also absent more frequently, according to a related research paper on absence among Indian teachers. Also contract teachers are paid much less than regular teachers but have similar absence rates.

Absenteeism among teachers and medical personnel is widely cited in development literature as a barrier to improving education and health levels in developing countries.

Developing countries often spend 80% to 90% of their education budgets on teachers, without getting the most basic of returns – getting teachers to show up to work. What can policymakers do? Working conditions are more likely to influence teachers’ absenteeism than fear of losing pay."

(Source World Bank Internet Release)


  • Dear Ramesh:

    This is a shocking finding. If this is the macro situation in education and health, there are major problems to sort out for sustainable growth in India. What are the causes of this absenteesm? Do people do some other work or they just do not like those job? It is difficult to create liking just by paying higher salaries. I am sure that we do not have the facility of substitute teachers in primary schools. I will read the report during the next few weeks or so. But thanks for putting this finding on the Blog.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:32 PM  

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    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:11 PM  

  • Chandra: Yes, absenteeism among teachers and medical workers is cronic and hurting the quality of public services in two important areas -- education and health -- which are critical for economic growth and people welfare. The World Bank is focussing on right issues but these are within the purview of state governments many of which are laggards. Do write about this in the blog. I will get more on this as we go along.

    By Blogger Ramesh G. Deshpande, at 5:49 PM  

  • What about Kerala which must be substantially different from the rest of India.


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