Ulster Unionist Roy Beggs said there was a "clear connection between poor attendance at school and poor academic attainment", on 2 October 2012.
Mr Beggs proposed his party's motion calling for an integrated approach to school absenteeism.
He noted that, in post-primary education, 26 of the 30 wards with the highest levels of absenteeism were in Protestant areas.
Mr Beggs singled-out Carrickfergus College in his constituency as a school with an excellent record of dealing with absenteeism.
Mervyn Storey of the DUP is chairman of the Education Committee: he questioned whether the issue was being taken seriously enough.
Sinn Fein's Chris Hazzard said he agreed with the spirit of the motion.
He said the Education Minister had recently commissioned research into pupil absenteeism with specific reference to deprived areas.
Sean Rogers of the SDLP said absenteeism was not only a problem in inner-city areas.
He paid tribute to "our inspirational teachers" for their work in addressing absenteeism.
Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle said pupils would profit not just from an integrated approach to absenteeism, but from an integrated approach to the entire education system.
Education Minister John O'Dowd said the problem could only be addressed through a partnership of parents, schools and statutory agencies.
He said the percentage of Protestant pupils not achieving five good GCSEs was 42%. The equivalent figure for Catholic pupils was 38.8%.
The minister emphasised the importance of parents taking an active interest in education.
The motion was carried on an oral vote.