Teacher Allocation and Absenteeism in East Africa

Although the governments of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda devote between 3-6% of their Gross Domestic Products (GDP) to funding for education, many children are still not learning the basic skills required to perform at grade level. Studies show that educators play an important role in how well students learn, from their attendance at work to how many children they are responsible for teaching, which can have profound implications for learning outcomes among students.

We know that good teachers have the power to lift students’ educational outcomes, yet there has been little systematic study across east Africa of the teacher force, teacher policies in the region, and best practices. Our client, Twaweza, seeks to know what can be done to increase educators’ efforts in the classroom.

To explore this question, we used Twaweza’s Uwezo National Learning Assessment as a primary data source, relying on household and school surveys conducted in 2015. This database serves as an excellent resource to explore issues connected to the allocation of teachers, teacher motivation and student performance. We further explore issues of teacher retention and experience using the World Bank’s Service Delivery Indicators (SDI). Finally, we delve more deeply, exploring the determinants of teacher absenteeism in Uganda using the Center for the Study of African Economics and Economic Research Policy Centre’s Improving Universal Primary Education Quality 2013 teacher survey.

We began our analysis with a bird’s eye view of teacher allocation and attendance across the three countries. In general, schools with more affluent households have lower STRs, and lower rates of teacher absenteeism—implying that students in schools with poorer households are doubly disadvantaged. However, there are some surprising differences across countries. Kenya has the lowest average STR—with a value of 35—among the three countries, while the average class size in both Uganda and Tanzania is 46 students. Compared to an international benchmark of 40 students per class, far more schools in Kenya are meeting this standard than in Uganda and Tanzania. Only 23% of Kenyan schools have average STRs greater than 40, whereas in Uganda and Tanzania, 53 and 57% of schools respectively have average class sizes greater than 40.

Students in Tanzania also fare worse in terms of class per teacher ratios, which indicate whether countries can staff each grade level and/or class with a teacher. 46% of schools have less than one teacher per classroom, whereas in Kenya and Uganda, only 18 and 6% of schools have more than one class per teacher on average. Uganda, which has STRs nearly as high as Tanzania, has had greater success in allocating a sufficient number of teachers to schools so that each grade has at least one teacher.

With respect to absenteeism, no stark differences stand out across countries. Each country presented approximately the same proportion of teachers absent at the time of the Uwezo survey: Kenya (22%), Tanzania (24%), Uganda (17%). Rates of absenteeism varied little between rural and urban areas in all three countries.

Rural and urban distinctions are an important determinant of STRs and classes per teacher in Tanzania, but matter less in Kenya. Differences in STRs across rural and urban schools in Kenya were not significantly different, while in Tanzania, the 11-student difference in the ratio of students to teachers is significant at the highest level. Notwithstanding, the difference in the average number of classes per teacher in rural versus urban schools is significant in both countries.

Across countries, there are important differences in the distribution of teacher experience. Just 12 to 14% of public school teachers in Kenya and Uganda were very inexperienced in 2013, having begun teaching in 2010 or later and having at most three years of experience. This contrasts strongly with Tanzania where, in 2014, 39% of teachers had begun teaching in 2010 or later.

To find out more read the full report here, East Africa policy brief here and Uganda policy brief here. 

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Authors: Jessica Jones



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