Action Research on Student and Pupil Absenteeism in School

My pupils as they were having their quarterly exams. If you notice, there are vacant seats which signify the absence of some pupils. Some frequently absent students even skip important tests. My pupils as they were having their quarterly exams. If you notice, there are vacant seats which signify the absence of some pupils. Some frequently absent students even skip important tests.

One of the most annoying experiences for teachers like me is when students are absent. We prepare lesson plans with the objective that 100% of the class will learn from the day’s classroom activities, and it is most satisfying when all students are present on that day and the days thereafter to ensure maximum learning.

Sadly, it is very difficult to achieve perfect attendance. No matter how interesting and well-prepared my lessons and teaching materials are, there are bound to be students who miss out on the day’s activities—willingly or unwillingly.

I would like to minimize this problem, if not eradicate it completely. That is why I conducted an action research to understand them better. I wanted a more accurate analysis of why some of my students are perennial absentees, so I could formulate plans, projects, and programs to minimize their absences. I hope that it also enlightens you. Even if you are not an educator, you may be able to help a student to stay in school.

Grade VI Students of Zapote Elementary School School Year 2010-2011

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, absenteeism is "chronic absence." In the context of school, it is the habitual or intentional failure to attend school. While every student may miss some school activities now and then, absence becomes a problem when the student is away from school for many days.

Going to school regularly is crucially important for a student’s education and social skills. Chronically absent students are at a disadvantage both socially and academically. They miss out on critical stages of social interaction and development with their peers, while simultaneously limiting their academic progress. This can result in low self-esteem, social isolation, and dissatisfaction that could well have precipitated non-attendance in the first place.

School absenteeism is an alarming problem for administrators, teachers, parents, society in general, and pupils in particular. Unaccepted absences have a negative effect on peer relationships, which can cause further absences. According to Malcolm, Wilson, Davidson and Kirk (2003) teachers identified the effects of absenteeism on children as:

  • academic under-achievement.
  • difficulty in making friends which could lead to boredom and loss of confidence.
  • prolonged absence can have deleterious effects for the child in later life.
  • students who are absent from school are at the greatest risk of dropping out of school early.

Absenteeism also affects the teacher’s ability to present classwork in a sequential and organized way. This can have an effect on the progress of all the students in the class.

Families of habitually absent students can also suffer. For a poverty-stricken family, it may mean a continuation of the poverty and unemployment cycle that may run in the family. This also contributes to family conflicts.

Society also suffers when school-age children are not in school. These children may hang out on the streets. Since they have nothing to do, they resort to petty crimes like stealing other people’s belongings and property. Others may become addicted to drugs or engage in other destructive behavior. Thus, if a student keeps away from school for too long, he may grow up to be a liability to his community and his country as a whole.

It is the aim of every school to lessen, if not eradicate, absenteeism among its students. One way of addressing this problem is to identify the causes of truancy. Once they are singled out, understood, and analyzed, these issues may be addressed with specific actions and measures. This will eventually result in the better performance of the students, teachers, and the school in general.

It is in this context that this action research was undertaken, that is, to identify the causes why the grade VI students in this school absent themselves from their classes.

This action research examined the causes of absenteeism among grade VI students of Zapote Elementary School during the 2010-2011 school year. This class had the most daily absences while in grade V. This data was gathered from the daily attendance record that is kept by the teacher-leader’s office every day and regularly filled out by grade level teachers.

Once the students entered grade VI, some of them were still frequent absentees. It is for this reason that this research was undertaken. It has the goal of understanding and correcting such undesirable pupil behavior. Based on the findings, methods and strategies were recommended to minimize, if not eradicate absenteeism or truancy.

All of the sixty grade VI pupils were asked to complete a questionnaire. They rated various situations, reasons, and causes for being absent from school.

All the the data was then organized, tallied, tabulated, and presented in a series of tables and graphs. Frequency counts, percentage weight values and weighted mean were used in the analysis and interpretation of data.

The responses were analyzed using a five-point Likert scale with the following equivalent:

  • 1. never
  • 2. rarely
  • 3. sometimes
  • 4. very often
  • 5. always

It should be noted that the questionnaire was given to students in their native dialect to increase the chance of accurate responses.

Figures were rounded signify classification of responses. The measure of central tendency, specifically the mean, was used to determine the average value of response or response average of the pupils.

Physical Factors

Personal Attitude

Teacher-Related Reasons

Classroom Environment

Home Factors

house is too far from school

I am not interested in my studies.

My teacher scolded me.

Our classroom is hot and uncomfortable.

My parents told me to be absent.

it is unsafe to go to school

I feel lazy.

I can't understand my teacher's lessons.

It's noisy in our classroom.

My parents quarreled.

no one accompanies me to school because of distance

My friends tell me to be absent.

I don't like my teacher.

Classmates bully me.

My parents don't care about my studies.

health factors (toothache, stomach ache, headache, fever/flu, diarrhea

I can't concentrate on my studies

I have no friends in my class.

I do too many household chores.

I didn't wake up in time.

I have no money to buy snacks at school.

I did not study or do my homework.

We have no food. I did not eat.

I was playing computer games.

A. Physical Factors

Among the items cited, the distance of their house to the school and the danger posed by walking to the school has the same response average, or a mean of 1.04. This means that both are not reasons for them to be absent from school.

B. Health

Fever/flu is the most common reason of students for being absent. It has the highest response average of 2.4. It is followed by headache, with an average response of 1.67. Other diseases like diarrhea come in third with 1.61 average responses. The least common reason for them for being absent is stomach ache, with 1.39 averages.

C. Personal Attitude

That the student doesn’t wake up early enough is the most common reason why he/she is absent. This account for 1.91 mean. Another reason commonly cited is that they can’t concentrate on their studies and that they were not able to study their lessons. This resulted from 1.45 and 1.37 mean respectively. Feeling lazy and playing computer games also keep them away from school. The former has a response average of 1.26 while the latter has 1.22.

D. Teacher-related

When the students are scolded for their bad behavior by the teacher, this tends to make them be absent from their classes. It has the highest average response of 1.38 while the reason that they can’t understand their lessons follow close behind with 1.32 mean.

E. Classroom Atmosphere

The highest mean of 1.77 was accorded to noise inside the classroom which means that this is the primary reason why they tend to be truant. Bullying by fellow students follows with 1.39 response average.

F. Home-related

Students who say their parents asked them to be absent resulted in the highest mean of 1.52. Household chores come second with a response average of 1.47. The other reasons ranged from 1.08 to

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1.39, including not having money to spend for snacks and other small expenses in school, no breakfast/food, and that their parents quarreled.

The response average or the mean was computed by multiplying the percentage of responses by the equivalent value of each frequency and then adding them all.

e.g.(5 x 0%) + (4 x 3%) + (3 x 13%) + (2 x 7%) + (1 x 77%) = 1.42

  • Among all the causes presented, health is the primary reason why students are absent from their classes. Flu/fever is the leading culprit in this category. Oral health, which according to the Department of Education is the main reason why pupils are absent, is just third among the reasons cited by the responding students.
  • Classroom atmosphere, personal attitude, teacher factor and home-related reasons follow in that order. The least reason they give is related to their physical environment.

Of all the factors/categories cited, the top 10 reasons of student absenteeism are as follows:

1) Flu/fever

2) Can’t wake up early

3) Noise inside the classroom

4) Headache

5) Other diseases such as diarrhea

6) Parents asking them to be absent

7) Preoccupation with household chores

8.3) Toothache

8.3) No money to buy snacks in school

8.3) Bullied by a classmate/classmates

Always (5)

Very Often (4)

Sometimes (3)

Rarely (2)

Never (1)

A. Physical Factor

1. Our house is far from the school.

0

0

1

0

59

2. It is unsafe to go to school.

0

0

1

0

59

3. Nobody accompanies me in going to school since it is far.

0

0

0

0

60

B. Health

1. I have a toothache.

0

2

8

4

46

2. My stomach hurts.

0

0

10

4

46

3. I have a headache

0

1

14

9

36

4. I'm down with fever/flu.

0

5

22

25

8

5. I have other diseases like diarrhea, etc.

0

1

9

15

35

C.Personal Attitude

1. I am not interested in my studies.

0

0

0

0

60

2. I feel lazy.

0

0

5

6

49

3. My friends influence me to be absent from my classes.

0

0

2

1

57

4. I can't concentrate in my studies.

0

0

9

9

42

5. I didn't wake up early.

0

5

16

8

31

6. I did not study/make my assignments the night before.

0

2

5

7

46

7. I got fond of playing computer games.

0

1

5

0

54

D. Teacher-Related Factors

1. My teacher scolded me.

0

1

6

7

46

2. I can't understand my teacher's lessons.

0

0

7

5

48

3. I don't like my teacher.

0

0

0

0

60

E. Classroom atmosphere

1.Our classroom is hot and uncomfortable.

0

0

4

1

55

2. It's noisy inside our classroom.

4

5

6

3

42

3. A classmate/classmates bully me.

0

1

8

4

47

4. I have no friends in our class.

0

0

0

0

60

F. Home-Related Factors

1. My parents ask me to be absent from class.

0

0

10

11

39

2. My parents quarreled.

0

0

2

1

57

3. My parents don't care about my studies.

0

0

1

1

58

4. I'm too pre-occupied with household chores.

1

3

5

5

47

5. I have no money to buy snacks in school.

0

1

8

4

47

6. We have no food/I did not eat.

0

0

7

4

59

What Strategies Can Minimize or Eradicate Absenteeism?

In order to limit or eliminate absenteeism, it is recommended that educators:

  1. educate the students on how to take care of their overall well-being. Emphasis should be given to oral health and overall body wellness. Teach them how to avoid communicable diseases. Give them information on how to properly wash their hands, which is the main source of germs and bacteria among children. Let them develop proper eating habits. Since most of the children in the school come from poor families, point out to them the cheap but healthy foods. Ask them to pass on this information to their parents.
  2. ensure that classroom atmosphere is conducive to learning. Noise-reduction among students should be a priority. Older children, like grade VI students, tend to have louder voices so they should be taught how to speak softly and without needing to shout. The key here is discipline.The teacher must also see to it that the students are comfortable and have no other concerns except the lesson at hand. There should be a lively interaction between the teacher and the students, but the teacher should see to it that noise is modulated so as not to distract pupils from their learning.
  3. inform parents about the benefit of keeping their children in school. Emphasize to them that if they keep on asking their children to be absent, this will set a bad example to the child. If the parents themselves are keeping the child away from school, they must believe that household concerns are more important than their education.
  4. refrain from scolding misbehaving pupils. As much as possible, remind them of their wrong doing in a most diplomatic manner. Self-control should be a virtue which the teacher should practice in the course of her teaching everyday of the school week.
  5. give extra attention to those who are left behind in the lessons. Tap the bright pupils to teach their slower classmates. In other words, cooperative learning should be practiced in the teaching-learning process. Once a slow student fully understands the lesson, he/she can keep up with his/her other classmates, thus self-confidence is gained.
  6. emphasize that academic success is very much dependent on student attitude towards school. Motivate them so they will be looking forward to attending their classes regularly. For those who wake up late, encourage them to get an alarm clock. Do not scold the pupils who come late. Give them a time-table to change their sleeping habits and to study before bed instead of watching TV.

Absenteeism and Dropping Out

I would like to caution all the parents out there: You may or may not know that your children are always absent from school. One of the rules I implement in my class is to require an excuse from a parent or guardian for every child's absence. Many of them comply, but some students get other people to write an excuse letter for them. When this happens, I call on the parents and let them know about it. It is only then that they become aware of the child’s absence from my class. Wwhen they found out about it, some of them scold their child in front of me. This gives me an insight into my student’s life at home.

But the most disturbing thing is that habitually absent students eventually drop out of my class. This happens to all my colleagues. We do our best to prevent drop-outs, but it is beyond our control. We can only hope that these students will come back the next year, change their ways, and that that whatever was hindering their studies is behind them.


Category: Research proposal

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