Teacher Shocks and Student Learning: Evidence from Zambia
A large literature examines the link between shocks to households and the educational attainment of children. We use new panel data to estimate the impact of shocks to teachers on student learning in Mathematics and English. Using absenteeism in the 30 days preceding the survey as a measure of these shocks, we find no impact for the full sample, but a large impact for a subsample for which we can control for unobserved changes in teacher heterogeneity: A 5 percent increase in the teacher’s absence rate reduces learning by 4 to 8 percent of average gains over the year. Health problems—primarily teachers’ own illness and the illnesses of their family members—account for more than 60 percent of teacher absences. This is not surprising in a country struggling with an HIV/AIDS epidemic.
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