Teacher Shocks and Student Learning: Evidence from Zambia
Following a tradition that relates household-level shocks to educational attainment, we examine the impact of teacher-level shocks on student learning. As a plausible measure for these shocks, we use teacher absenteeism during a 30-day recall period. A 5-percent increase in teacher absence rate reduced learning by 4 to 8 percent of average gains over the year, for both Mathematics and English. The estimated impacts are substantial and, in addition to the losses due to time away from class, likely reflect lower teaching quality when in class and less lesson-preparation when at home. Health problems-primarily their own illness and the illnesses of family members-account for more than 60 percent of teacher absenteeism. This suggests both that households are unable to substitute adequately for school-level teaching inputs and that, to support human capital formation, insurance at the school-level may be a policy priority that is worth exploring further.
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