At Asante Africa, we strive to provide access to education for as many children as we can. However, getting children into school is often only the first step. Determining how best to ensure that students are actually learning once they are in school is a much more difficult issue that must be addressed.
In a 2005 country-wide study in India, researchers found that although recent efforts to increase access to education were underway throughout the country, once in the classroom, children were not achieving desired results. They found that 44% of the children age 7 to 12 could not read a basic paragraph, and that 50% were unable to do simple subtraction, even though most were enrolled in school at the time.
Additionally, there is a great deal of randomized evidence that suggests that “inputs” such as textbooks, additional teachers, flip charts, etc. often do not improve test scores. However, spending on “inputs” that are specifically targeted to the weakest students does show a greater potential for positive educational outcomes.
Other ways to improve performance levels of children already enrolled in school was analyzed in a recent study conducted in India.
The results of two randomized experiments suggest that:
1. Remedial education programs in basic numeracy and literacy, targeting the weakest students (2 hours per day, taken out of the regular classroom), result in positive educational gains. Results show that for these targeted students, the average test scores increased by .40 std deviations in year 2.
2. Secondly, the experiment found that computer games focusing on basic math that were offered to all students, with questions tailored to each individual’s ability (2 hours/week), resulted in substantial improvement in academic achievement. Math scores increased by .47 std deviations in year 2, and the intervention was equally effective for all students.
3. The data also shows that large academic gains do not persist after the program has ended, but that some positive effects do continue over time. Thus, these interventions may only be valuable if integrated into the long-term plan of a school, rather than as a short-term educational intervention.
Studies like these remind us that getting children into school is a huge feat in itself, but often just the first step. Additionally, they provide us with great ideas and resources about how best to continue our work here at Asante, ensuring that the best result is achieved for all. To get more information, check out the original article, Remedying Education: Evidence from Two Randomized Experiments in India, here.