A record 138,696 elementary and junior high school students were absent from school for at least 30 days without good reason during the school year that ended in March, according to the results of an education ministry survey released Friday.

The figure, up roughly 4,400 from the previous year, shows a 10-fold increase from fiscal 1990, ministry officials said. Some experts believe the actual number of absentee students is much higher because the survey does not count those children who go to school but spend time in the infirmary rather that attending classes.

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