Call me educated: Evidence from a mobile phone experiment in Niger?
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Teacher absenteeism is an important obstacle to sustained learning gains in many developing countries. We report the results from a randomized evaluation of an adult education program in Niger, which included an additional intervention designed to improve teacher accountability and students’ learning. Villages were randomly assigned to one of three groups. The first was a two-year adult education program, with normal visits by non-governmental organization (NGO) and Ministry staff. The second included the same curriculum and visits as the first, but villages also received a mobile intervention: weekly phone calls to the teacher, village chief and two randomly selected students. The third was a pure control group, with no adult education program or calls. We find that both interventions improved students’ learning outcomes: across both years of the program, students in the standard adult education program increased their math and reading test scores by 0.19–0.22 s.d, respectively. The mobile phone intervention led to an additional increase in math and reading test scores of 0.12 and 0.15 s.d., with stronger effects amongst called students. We also address alternative threats to identification, namely, differential attrition and baseline imbalance, and find that the math results are robust across these different specifications. This suggests that using mobile phone technology as a means to communicate with teachers and students can improve learning outcomes, beyond its use as a pedagogical tool within the classroom.
CitationJenny C. Aker, Christopher Ksoll, Call me educated: Evidence from a mobile phone experiment in Niger, Economics of Education Review, Volume 72, 2019, Pages 239-257, ISSN 0272-7757, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.econedurev.2019.05.001
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