Analysis from the OECD suggests that young people who regularly eat their main meal with their parents are much less likely to be truants. Missing class has a serious impact on test results, the report argues, and positive engagement with school or family can be an even stronger factor than being rich or poor in determining whether children are truant.
With Latvia recording the highest and Japan the lowest, 18% of teenagers played truant across developed countries. The UK came in below average on students missing individual lessons and above average for missing whole days of school. Truancy is worse in the UK than high performing education systems such as in South Korea and Shanghai as shown by international comparisons.
As Sean Coughlan of BBC News reports, the data on truancy was gathered alongside the international PISA tests taken by 15-year-olds – and it shows the negative consequences of missing lessons. Based on how they performed on math tests, poorer grades in school were strongly linked to pupils who missed lessons. However, there is no clear difference between rich and poor pupils when it comes to the likelihood of playing truant, according to international figures. Richer pupils were more likely to miss lessons in a number of countries including Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
Also, based on the proportion of pupils who had played truant in the fortnight before taking the PISA tests, wide differences in national patterns of absenteeism were revealed in the analysis. 15% had missed a whole school day and 18% a lesson, but the average levels more than doubled in countries such as Latvia, Greece, Turkey, Romania and Argentina. Asian countries including Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and the Chinese cities of Shanghai and Hong Kong recorded the lowest levels of truancy. The lowest level of absenteeism within Europe was recorded in Luxembourg.
The OECD study shows the UK is "right to crack down on pupil absence from school," according to England's Education Minister, Elizabeth Truss.
"We already know that children who attend school regularly are nearly four times more likely to achieve five good GCSEs than those who are regularly absent," she said. "Getting good maths grades helps young people get good jobs, means they earn more and provides the best protection against unemployment. This is why it is vital children attend as much school as possible."