One of the most annoying, if unavoidable experiences of teachers like me is dealing with student absenteeism. 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 a perfect attendance among my students.No matter how interesting and well-prepared my lessons and teaching materials are, there are bound to be students who miss out the day’s activities, willingly or unwillingly. This is particularly true to those of us teaching in the public schools. We all know that almost half or maybe majority of our students come from poverty-stricken families or from families whose meager income is just enough to put food on their tables.
Causes of Absenteeism Among the Grade VI Students of Zapote Elementary School School Year 2010-2011
Student absenteeism is a perennial problem of all teachers. Every curriculum year, it is one of the problems that they have to contend to. It is not only the teachers who are concerned with this problem but the school administrators as well.
This action research examined the causes of absenteeism of the Grade VI students of Zapote Elementary School for the school year 2010-2011. When they were in Grade V, they were the class which has the most number of absentees everyday. This was gathered from the data contained in the daily attendance record being passed around and kept by the teacher-leader’s office everyday and is regularly filled up by the teachers in each grade level for the whole year. Now that they are in Grade VI, some of them are still frequent absentees. It is for this reason that this research was undertaken. It has the end in view of understanding and correcting such undesirable pupil behavior. Based on the findings, methods/strategies were recommended to minimize, if not eradicate absenteeism or truancy.
Absenteeism, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary means chronic absence. In the context of the school it is the habitual or intentional failure from going to school. It cannot be denied that every now and then, students may miss some school activities and lessons. But it becomes a problem if the student will be away from school for many days.
Going to school regularly is crucially important for a student’s education and social skills. Chronic absentee students are placed at a disadvantage both socially and academically. They miss out on critical stages of social interaction and development with their peers and at the same time impacts negatively on their academic progress. This can result to 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 and the society in general, as well as for the pupils in particular. Unaccepted absence has a negative effect on peer relationship which could cause absence. According to Malcolm, Wilson, Davidson and Kirk (2003) teachers identified effects of absenteeism on children as: academic under- achievement, difficulty in making friends which could lead to boredom, loss of confidence. Also, 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 present class work in a sequential and organized way. This can have an effect on the progress of all the students attending the class.
The families of habitual absentees 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.
The society also suffers as the children of school age hang around in the streets. They can be found just gallivanting around. Since they have nothing to do, they resort to petty crimes like stealing other people’s belongings and properties. Others may resort to drug addiction and other behavior that is detrimental to society. Thus, if the student keeps on being away from school for too long, he may grow up to be a liability of his community and of 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 why students become truant from school. Once they are singled out, understood and analyzed, specific actions and measures can be undertaken. This will eventually redound to 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.
Objectives of the Study
This study aimed to determine the causes of absenteeism among the Grade VI pupils of Zapote Elementary School. Specifically, it sought to answer the following questions:
1. What are the common causes why pupils are absent from their classes?
2. Which among these causes is the most prevalent?
a. Physical factors
a.1. House is far from the school.
a. 2. It is unsafe to go to school.
a. 3. Nobody accompanies me in going to school since it is far.
b. Health factors
b. 1. I have a toothache.
b. 2. My stomach hurts.
b. 3. I have a headache
b. 4. I’m down with fever/flu.
b. 5. I have other diseases like diarrhea, etc.
c. Personal Attitude
c. 1. I am not interested in my studies.
c. 2. I feel lazy.
c. 3. My friends influence me to be absent from my classes.
c. 4. I can’t concentrate in my studies.
c. 5. I didn't wake up early.
c. 6. I did not study/make my assignments the night before.
c. 7. I got fond of playing computer games.
d. Teacher-related reasons
d. 1. My teacher scolded me.
d. 2. I can’t understand my teacher’s lessons.
d. 3. I don’t like my teacher.
e. Classroom atmosphere
e. 1. Our classroom is hot and uncomfortable.
e. 2. It’s noisy inside our classroom.
e. 3. A classmate/classmates bully me.
4. I have no friends in our class.
f. Home-related factors
f. 1. My parents ask me to be absent from class.
f. 2. My parents quarreled.
f. 3. My parents don’t care about my studies.
f. 4. I do many household chores.
f. 5. I have no money to buy snacks in school.
f. 6. We have no food/I did not eat.
Findings on the causes of student absenteeism
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. It means that both are not reasons for them to be absent from school.
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 stomachache with 1.39 averages.
C. Personal Attitude
That the student doesn’t wake up early 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.
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 student follows with 1.39 response average.
“My parents ask me to be absent from school” reason resulted to 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 1.39 include having no 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.
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 in the said category by the Grade VI students studying in Zapote Elementary School for the school year 2010-2011.
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.
Considering all the factors/categories cited, the top 10 reasons of student absenteeism are as follows:
2) Can’t wake up early
3) Noise inside the classroom
5) Other diseases such as diarrhea
6) Parents asking them to be absent
7) Pre- occupation with household chores
8.3) No money to buy snacks in school
8.3) Bullied by a classmate/classmates
The following are recommended to limit the students’ absenteeism and prevent their occurrences:
1.Educate the students on how to take care of their overall well-being. Emphasis should be given to oral health and over-all body wellness. Teach them how to avoid communicable diseases as well. 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.Time and again, classroom atmosphere should be made conducive to learning. Noise-reduction among students should be a priority as this really affects them. Older children like the Grade VI students tend to have louder voices so it should be inculcated in them 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 it will be in modulated voices so as not to impair the hearing of the students due to too much noise when doing classroom activities.
Include proper room ventilation and lighting so as not to distract pupils from their learning.
3.During parents conferences, inform the parents about the benefit of keeping their children in school at all times when there are classes. Emphasize to them that if they keep on asking their children to be absent, this will set a bad precedence to the child. If the parents themselves will be the one to keep them away from school, they will think that household concerns are more important than their education, thus the children will take for granted their coming to school regularly and suffer the consequences of it.
4.Although it can’t be avoided that the teacher gets peeved with pupils’ bad behavior, he/she should refrain from scolding the erring 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, for all we know, these slow pupils might learn/understand better if persons of their same age are the ones explaining to them. 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. This way, they will be more motivated to come to school regularly.
6.Imbibe in the mind of the children that their academic success is very much dependent on their 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 have an alarm clock. Do not scold the pupils who come late. Give them a time-table to change their sleeping habit for the better. In line will this, studying before retiring to bed instead of watching TV should be prioritized and instilled to the pupils.
Student absenteeism results to dropping out of school
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 regarding student absenteeism is that the parent or guardian should write an excuse letter to me explaining the reason for the child’s absence in my class. Many of them comply. But there are times when a student asks other people to write an excuse letter for them, conniving and pretending that they are the parents/guardians. 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.And when they found out about it, some of them scold their child, my pupil, in front of me. This kind of incidence gives me an insight into my student’s life in their homes.
But the most disturbing thing is that the habitually absent student eventually drops out of my class no matter what the reason or reasons are. And the thing is, it also happens to all my co-teachers.As much as possible, we do our best to prevent such incidence from occurring. But there are things that are beyond our control and we can only do so much.We can only hope that these students come back the next year, change their ways and realize that whatever hindrances in their studies they encounter, we, their teachers, are behind them.