SMS Keeps Kids in School
By Eric Lin, Mon Jun 21 21:15:00 GMT 2004

Preliminary data shows that texting parents of absent school children reduces the number of truancies, and it reaches parents in a way they actually prefer.


There is a difference between the public sector using mobile data services and those services actually being effective. Finally there is some numerical proof that at least one such service really is effective. Schools in Australia that have been texting parents of absent students have seen a significant drop in truancy (link from Textually).

One school in Western Australia has seen truancy drop 75%. It seems other schools have been successful as well, but no results were cited for them. School officials state the system is effective combating truancy even among "good students" whose absence was never questioned previous to the SMS implementation.

The systems, installed in schools scattered throughout in Australia, send out an SMS to students' parents when they don't show up to class. Parents can then reply with a response, which is logged by computer. With approximately 85% of parents surveyed owning mobile phones, SMS provides a broad-reaching and immediate means of communication for the schools. While this eases the school's workload tracking attendance, public schools will still have to fill use a paper-based system (in triplicate -- no less), that the government has just implemented, in order to notify law enforcement as well as parents.

Individuals schools are learning the power of mobile-based systems, but it seems the government could use a lesson or two -- or in a best case scenario could start an eGovernment initiative like the UK. One can easily imagine the school's daily truancy report being forwarded to law enforcement after the school receives responses from parents.