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The focus of this study was to try to gather enough information about the problem of student absenteeism and to evaluate the awareness of this issue and its repercussions in the targeted institution. The objective was also to make concrete recommendations to develop future strategies based on the current ones in order to find possible solutions to minimize the problem as it is very difficult to eliminate it completely.
The analysis of student absenteeism was based on different factors like psychological, social and economic and environmental so as to measure its direct impact. It confirmed that student absenteeism is totally related to these factors and mostly to the environmental ones. Furthermore, it has been found out that along with students, parents, educators and the management are to be held responsible to a certain degree for their contribution to the problem.
Following the analysis and findings certain strategies to ponder over the issue in a more systematic way will be enumerated. Therefore, my recommendations will be in the form of sub areas which need to be re-organized again to allow a better follow-up of the problem in the targeted institution. In this respect, possible solutions on two basis namely immediate and future actions have been devised.
5.1 IMMEDIATE ACTIONS
Immediate actions will not actually solve the problems, but if well integrated they can possibly remedy certain situations at the school level and prepare the ground for more concrete and long lasting actions. Here are some suggestions for how educators, administrators and parents can directly and indirectly help in decreasing student absenteeism and increase their desire to attend school.
5.1.1 EDUCATORS INVOLVEMENT
The role of form teachers has to be clearly defined. More emphasis should be laid on their role on taking the daily attendance in the morning. The institution should make them conscious that the 10 minutes form period during the morning forms part of their duty and that they should do it properly. They must be reminded that they are role models and thus they must maintain caring relationships, high expectations, a structured learning environment, and opportunities for students to participate which can indeed turn students' life around. As form teachers, they must be able to convince their students that they will be the losers if they do not attend school.
Regarding subject teachers, they must be able to boost up their students' interest in their particular subject. For instance, they can create a friendly teacher-student relationship which will lead to a two-way traffic in the teaching and learning process. Furthermore, technological tools can be used more often to enhance the learning of the subject.
Besides this, each educator can be provided with a document in the form of an attendance card where he or she would be required to take the attendance at the beginning of each class.
When students are afraid of being ridiculed or criticized by both educators and other students, or are afraid of making mistakes, they are less likely to want to work. School staff can create an environment of mutual respect within which students are not afraid to speak up.
Educators can provide high expectations for all students, guide students in focusing on their strengths, and challenge students to work beyond what they think they can do. This is especially important for children of diverse cultures, who may in the past have had educators with low expectations of them. "It goes without saying that high-expectation educators do not label their students-as 'at risk' or anything else," says Benard.
Create shared learning opportunities for students to work together-either during whole-group or small-group lessons, or with peer tutoring. Some research indicates that this encourages students' motivation and engagement.
5.1.2 SCHOOL INVOLVEMENT
When a student is absent, immediately talk to their family member in person-by personal phone call during the day or the evening.
Rewards or incentives in the form of parties, gift certificates and recognition at assemblies or on school notice board, libraries for good attendance may reduce student absenteeism.
Everyday routine should be changed by introducing more extracurricular activities in which students are interested and which will motivate them to come to school. For instance, clubs for extracurricular can organize activities like indoor games, sports competition and so on.
A system of marking and record should be introduced for each term regarding extracurricular activities so as to motivate those who like to absent themselves when such activities are organized to be present at school. The institution must make the students aware that these records will be used for the testimonials purpose.
Rules and regulations of the school have to be strengthened. Both parents and students have to be made aware at the very beginning of the academic year about the disciplinary actions of the institution which they have to abide by.
The post of assistant form teachers must be created. They can replace the form teachers whenever the latter are absent. Furthermore, they can provide their help by sharing their ideas with the form teacher in monitoring their respective classes.
5.2 FUTURE ACTIONS
Together with these immediate actions, the school must also plan to develop future strategies to deal with the problem. In this way, any loopholes observed in the immediate recommendations can be reviewed and reorganized in future. Here are a few suggestions to tackle the problem in the long run.
5.2.1 EDUCATORS INVOLVEMENT
Start lessons with an activity to keep children more engaged and less likely to be late to that class.
Student attendance significantly declines when students realize they can no longer earn a passing grade in a class. Each educator shall be encouraged to grade "in-class" work, thereby encouraging student attendance and participation in class. In addition, alternative school programs shall be created that will enable students to remain in school and recover work.
Educators must seize the incentives and resources given to them during in-service training courses like Bed, PGCE and so on. This will help them to manage and make their classes more interactive so as to create the sense of interest in their students.
Educators must change their traditional way of teaching. They must be able to make use of technological tools and new approaches of teaching so as to deal with the new generation of students.
Educators and school coordinators need to work with students in order to draw the connections between what the students are doing and what they should be learning. For instance, activities involving civic responsibilities may be conducted inside or outside classes with clear and specific learning objectives.
5.2.2 SCHOOL INVOLVEMENT
Hold weekly or bimonthly attendance meetings to review lists of students that are absent, develop action plans, and review building processes including accuracy of data entry and communication systems.
Make sure all staff, especially the school secretary, understand the difference between excused and unexcused absences.
Conduct educational meetings with educators and student bodies to discuss school discipline and ways to deal with student absenteeism.
Involve students in the academic process through participation in some school regulations, concepts in freedom of expression, democracy and social interactions.
Appoint a school counselor to clarify and strengthen the importance of teaching and learning process in education. The counselor can meet students with problems on a weekly basis to identify aspects that the students do not like at school. In this way, verbal praises, words of encouragement and positive connection with the school can be emphasized.
Emphasized at all school gatherings and in classrooms that learning is the most important reason for being in school. Post learning goals in the classrooms and in newsletters, and make sure family members understand them as well.
There must be effective reporting, recording and monitoring of student attendance. Investigate the various computerized attendance tracking systems that are currently available. In this way, a whole database of information on absenteeism can be created with the help of technological tools. The system can also be used to identify excused and unexcused absences.
5.2.3 FAMILY INVOLVEMENT
Develop systems of immediate and rapid communication with parents. As mentioned by our Minister of Education, the system of Short Message Service (SMS) can be used to alert parents whenever their wards are absent or late at school.
Involve families in all program planning and implementation. There must be mutual trust and communication for families and the school to work together to solve problems. For instance, the institution may work on the creation of a School and Parents Council (SPC) in order to involve parents and make them aware of their duties towards their children at academic, behavioral, psychological and social aspects.
Family counseling sessions should focus on finding positive solutions and treating the family with respect. The goal is to emphasis solutions based on the power of the family, rather than on the power of the school.
Make home visits to chronically absent pupils. Provide a home family liaison to identify the main causes for children not coming to school and finding possible solutions to deal with the problem.
5.3 LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
Since the nature of the problem of student absenteeism involved psychological, social and economic as well as environmental factors, it was difficult to obtain exact and accurate information from the questionnaires. Some students did not fill in the questionnaires appropriately and some questions were left unanswered.
Furthermore, time and resource constraints might have affected the quality of the study. Due to time factor, I had to restrict myself to only four objectives, as stated above.
Also, the ideal population would be to take students at different levels in the institution. But as it would have been very difficult to work with the whole population due to its size, diversity and the time factor, a random sample of only 25 students from the HSC final year students was taken. Again due to time factor, only educators and form teachers of HSC classes were chosen for the study.
Moreover, the procedure adopted for collecting data may be time-consuming as it was based primarily on process strategy and therefore, to some extent, limited in its application to the acquisition of specific information.
Besides, the statistical tests performed by the computer may be wrong as it was the researcher who decided which tests to apply.
5.4 RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FURTHER STUDIES
As mentioned above, due to time constraints this case study has been restricted only to HSC final year students. Thus, research on a larger scale is needed to see if the findings of this investigation can be generalized at Keats College or even at the national level. The following recommendations for further studies may prove to be useful:
Research should be conducted replicating this study in the same school with different level of students regarding the same issue. Such additional research would strengthen the reliability of this study and the validity of its findings while providing useful comparisons.
The relationship between student absenteeism and lack of motivation.
The relationship between student absenteeism and academic performance.
The relationship between student and educator absenteeism.
The relationship between family background and student absenteeism.
The relationship between parents' involvement and student absenteeism.
These further researches on the above topics can help to bring more light to the problem of student absenteeism.
To conclude, the different findings have brought sufficient information about the present situation of the problem at the targeted school. It is apparent that high rates of absenteeism are problems that affect the smooth running of the institution. Students who habitually miss school exhibit loss of learning and instruction, and may drop out of school altogether. School systems suffer also when students are absent by loss of instructional time that often must be repeated for the absentee student, which in turn leads to loss of instructional time for other students.
Several causes have been identified to contribute to the problem. These include psychological, social, economical and environmental factors. According to the findings, environmental factors contribute mainly to the issue at the targeted institution. In this respect, recommendations have been made and the school is also planning to develop future strategies which may help to minimize, if not, to eradicate the problem completely.