Time to Teach

Teacher attendance and time on task in primary schools Guinea-Bissau

Child in school
©UNICEF Guiné-Bissau/2020/Mendes


While the world was already in a learning crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to worsen this situation.

Teacher absenteeism is one of the most troubling obstacles on the path to universal access to learning opportunities. There is mounting evidence that teacher absenteeism is a particular challenge in low- and middle-income countries around the globe, with rates varying from 3 to 27 per cent (Guerrero et al. 2013).

This significantly impedes children’s chances to learn in Guinea-Bissau. In 2018–2019, more than 42 per cent of children had missed class either due to school closures or teacher absence (INE, 2020). With systematic teacher absenteeism estimates otherwise unavailable in Guinea-Bissau, this study seeks to fill an important knowledge gap.

The Time to Teach study seeks to support the Ministry of National Education and Higher Education (MENES) in its efforts to strengthen teacher’s role in the school to increase their time on task. Its primary objective is to identify factors affecting the various dimensions of primary school teacher attendance and to use this evidence to inform the design and implementation of teacher policies. Specifically, the study looks at four distinct dimensions of teacher attendance: (1) being in school; (2) being punctual (i.e., not arriving late/leaving early); (3) being in the classroom (while in school); and (4) spending sufficient time on task (while in the classroom).

Time to Teach in Guinea-Bissau is a mixed-methods project, employing both qualitative and quantitative research tools. In total, 20 Bissau-Guinean primary schools were purposely selected, covering nine regions of the country.

At each school, in-depth interviews took place with the head teacher, three teachers, as well as a community leader, while a focus group discussion was conducted with pupils. Additionally, 180 teachers completed penand-paper surveys and field data collectors undertook structured school observations. A total of 339 individuals took part in the study. Data were collected in 2019, prior to the current COVID-19 crisis. The findings of this report, however, have implications on how to go beyond recovery and continue accelerating progress to reduce learning poverty.

time to Teach
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