Teacher absence and incentives in primary education: primary education results from a national teacher tracking survey in Ecuador
High rates of absence of teachers from their posts is a serious obstacle to delivery of education in many developing countries, but hard evidence on the problem has been scarce. This study, carried out as part of a new multi-country survey project in health and education, is the first systematic investigation in Ecuador into the extent and causes of employee absence from primary schools. Data from our nationally representative survey reveals that teachers in Ecuador are absent from their posts nearly 14 percent of the time. While this overall absence rate is relatively low compared with those of other survey countries, it remains high enough that it is likely to impede learning. Moreover, it is higher in particular areas, with the absence rate exceeding 16 percent in urban areas other than Quito, and appears to be concentrated in particular teachers. We identify several important variables that are associated with increased absence: community characteristics, such as poverty and urbanization; and poor monitoring and discipline, including infrequent use of discipline by the school director, low rates of school inspections, and distance from the nearest Ministry of Education office. By contrast, we do not find strong or unambiguous effects of variables proxying for working conditions at the school, nor of monitoring of teachers by communities and parents. Finally, the findings do not support the idea that moving to non-formal or contract teachers will solve the problem of teacher absence by creating a more "incentivized" teaching force.