A study conducted by the Education Sector Analytical and Capacity Development Partnership (ACDP) has found that across Indonesia, about one in 10 teachers does not show up to teach.
Examining a period between Oct. 18 and Dec. 15, 2013, 10 per cent of the 8,300 teachers assigned to 880 elementary and junior high schools in Sumatra, Java, Bali and Nusa Tenggara, Sulawesi, Kalimantan, Papua and Maluku were absent from class.
When the same schools were surveyed again from Jan. 22 to March 31, 2014, the ACDP found the absentee rate had risen to 11 per cent.
Out of the eight regions surveyed, the ACDP noted that Kalimantan, Bali and Nusa Tenggara had the highest teacher absentee rates, at 14 per cent. Sumatra had the lowest rate at 8 per cent.
Although the study showed a drop from the 19 per cent absenteeism rate recorded in 2003, the ACDP said the figure was still disconcerting.
"Although the number has decreased significantly, the country should not be satisfied by a 10 per cent rate, as it is still too high," the ACDP study noted.
According to the survey, 26 per cent of those teachers who were absent said they missed class because they were attending meetings or seminars.
The ACDP also noted that absent teachers were often actually on school grounds, just not in the classrooms they were supposed to be teaching in.
"In many schools, the number of teachers absent [from classrooms] was even higher than the number of teachers absent from schools," the study said.
The study showed that in 2013, the number of teachers absent from classes stood at 14 per cent. The figure was 12 per cent in 2014.
At 17 per cent, Sumatra had the highest number of teachers absent from classes, while Sulawesi had the lowest rate at 4 per cent in 2014.
"Up to 32 per cent of the teachers absent from classrooms said they were busy doing administrative work, while 24 per cent said they were doing other school-related activities, such as preparing materials for [other] classes. The remaining 44 per cent said they were doing 'other' activities," the study found.
The ACDP - which was established by government institutions, the National Development Planning Board (Bappenas), the Australian government, the European Union and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) - found that teacher absenteeism was worst in remote areas, at schools where principals were rarely present and in places where education agencies rarely visited.
"The government must reconsider its policies on working hours to decrease the chances of teachers being absent. Furthermore, the government must clearly define a teacher's activities outside of class," the ACDP said in its list of recommendations.
The study noted that the government needed to focus on teacher distribution, not on increasing the number of educators. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), there were 2.7 million civil servants and non-civil servant teachers in Indonesia in the 2012-2013 academic year.