Education: teacher attrition rate

Export Indicator

Teacher attrition rate in the previous academic year
What it measures

To assess the extent of permanent teacher loss, by reason.


Teachers are an important part of any education sector. They represent a substantial investment in developing human resources and they provide a critical contribution to the social and economic development of a country. The education sector should plan for the supply of sufficient numbers of teachers. One way that HIV does impact on the education sector is the increase in the number of teachers who drop out of the system. The reasons for this vary, from socio-economic pressures to opportunities created in other sectors; pressures as teachers have to take on additional responsibilities or more dependants; or teachers themselves becoming ill or dying.

This indicator provides an indication of permanent teacher attrition or loss. It considers the number of teachers lost to the system as a proportion of the number of teachers employed. The loss is tracked for a variety of reasons – including death, resignation or retirement.

The value of the indicator lies in trend analysis over time, looking at the age breakdown of the reported data, gender differences and also considering the various reasons as contributing factors.

Method of measurement

In the Annual School Census questionnaire, a cross-tab table is provided by gender with reasons for teachers leaving schools (including death, illness, retirement, resignation, transfers or other reasons) as a header and then five-year age groups are provided as row columns. Schools are then requested to provide the appropriate numbers of teachers who left for the previous academic year. There are separate tables for male and female teachers, with totals calculated.

Using the general teacher figures, this is calculated as a percentage, to two decimal points.

To calculate the true attrition rate (permanent loss to the education system), the categories of transfers should not be included in the calculation, as these teachers are still within the education system. They may be ‘lost’ to the school but they do remain within the education system.

Number of teachers who permanently left the school, by reason, in the previous academic year.

Number of teachers in establishment in previous academic year.

Collection method
EMIS annual school census questionnaire, as well as human resource systems and records.

The indicator should be presented as a separate percentage for:
■■ Males and females
■ Five-year age groups (19 years and below, 20-24, 25-29, 30 and above)
■ Different reasons for leaving the school: death, illness, retirement, resignation, transfer, other reasons.
■ School type (public/private)
■ School level (primary/secondary/tertiary)
■ Geographical distribution: urban, rural and peri-urban.

This is a proxy indicator and will be interpreted as such, as none of the deaths or losses due to illness can be categorically determined to be as a result of HIV or AIDS. However, with detailed analysis over time, teacher attrition could be considered as a good HIV-proxy indicator. The concern for the education sector is teacher attrition rate, the real loss of teachers as a critical resource.

The findings from this indicator should be triangulated with the data from indicator #12 (on ‘percentage of educational institutions that implement an HIV workplace programme’). A high rate of teacher attrition may be linked to the absence or low implementation of an HIV workplace programme in educational institutions, as teachers who do not receive information and training on HIV and AIDS are more likely to become infected by HIV.

Teachers living with HIV who do not have access to care and support services are more likely to fall sick and to die. Those who are victims of stigma and discrimination in the workplace are more likely to stay away from schools.

In countries with a generalized HIV epidemic, a high teacher attrition rate should draw the attention of policymakers to the need to provide teachers living with HIV with a safe and conducive working environment, including comprehensive HIV workplace programmes.

The value of this indicator also lies at looking at the patterns or trends over time, by gender and according to age bands, and to look proportionally at how death and illness have contributed to the teacher attrition.

Measurement frequency


Explanation of the numerator
Explanation of the denominator
Strengths and weaknesses

■ The indicator has been field tested and is already integrated into the EMIS of several countries in Eastern and Southern Africa. It is seen as a general key indicator for the education sector.
■ The method of calculation of the indicator is simple.
■ The indicator allows for easy comparison over time and between age groups and gender.

■ The reason for death and extended illness cannot be attributed to HIV or AIDS.
■ The accuracy of the data is dependent on school record keeping and reporting.

Further information