Stefan Schwall

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2011


This profile was prepared when Stefan Schwall was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2011.
The New Idea
The core of Stefan’s work is bringing absent children back into school. His strategy begins with implementing a five-part tracking system for absences to identify the most difficult cases. Stefan has already implemented his model in eight schools and reported a decline in absenteeism of 90 percent. More than thirty other schools in the pilot city of Wuppertal are beginning to track attendance and others have expressed interest.

In addition, Stefan trains teachers in how to deal with absenteeism. He conducts trainings and workshops to help ensure that teachers understand the most appropriate ways to handle routinely absent children, many with behavioral problems. A key aspect of Stefan’s trainings is his focus on the rules, norms, and morals of handling emotion in the classroom—in particular, how this affects managing an effective classroom and solving absentee problems.

Stefan has also developed an innovative approach to diagnose underlying reasons for individual absenteeism. Often, only through simple analysis of school days missed, the particular type of school absenteeism can be identified. A teenager who is highly resistant toward clear rules and structure needs to be treated differently from a teenager seeking structure. The individual needs of students are not difficult to identify, but are critical in diagnosing the roots of absenteeism.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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