Experimental evaluation of life-skills curriculum for vulnerable students in Dhaka

Last registered on September 08, 2022

Pre-Trial

Trial Information

General Information

Title
Experimental evaluation of life-skills curriculum for vulnerable students in Dhaka
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0010004
Initial registration date
August 31, 2022

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
September 07, 2022, 3:39 PM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.

Last updated
September 08, 2022, 5:24 AM EDT

Last updated is the most recent time when changes to the trial's registration were published.

Locations

Region

Primary Investigator

Affiliation
Wilfrid Laurier University

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
North South University
PI Affiliation

Additional Trial Information

Status
On going
Start date
2022-07-01
End date
2022-12-31
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Abstract
We will implement a stratified randomized controlled trial to analyze whether an eight-week customized life-skills curriculum will allow vulnerable madrasah (religious school) students to attain mental resilience and favorable education outcomes. Adverse adolescent mental health in a resource-constrained environment affects lifetime and labor market outcomes negatively. Our life-skills curriculum has been developed by specialists in the field of psychology and education and is customized towards improving life chances of students from marginalized populations of Bangladesh.

We hypothesize that the intervention will lower depression, promote a growth mindset, lower anxiety about school performance, improve self-esteem and future outlook, boost anger coping strategies, and enhance social interactions and perceived safety.

This study’s population consists of 472 students attending grades 6 to 10 in Dhaka City. The objective is to gather evidence on the efficacy of the customized curriculum in the under-studied urban context of a developing country, and estimate social network effects.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Citation
Hossain, Shagufe, Ridwan Karim and Asad Priyo. 2022. "Experimental evaluation of life-skills curriculum for vulnerable students in Dhaka." AEA RCT Registry. September 08. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.10004-2.0
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Experimental Details

Interventions

Intervention(s)
We are implementing a stratified randomized controlled trial (RCT) to analyze whether an eight-week customized life-skills curriculum will allow madrasah-going girls to reshape their understanding of adversity and, without changing external factors, attain more favorable education outcomes. Adolescent adversity in a resource-constrained environment is recognized as a potent risk factor for mental health, and often lead to high levels of school dropout. We have already designed a customized curriculum to address the needs of these marginalized students.
Previous experiments have shown that programs that attempt to improve education outcomes by cultivating attitudes, and beliefs about school and learning associated with positive academic outcomes can help adolescent and vulnerable students develop a growth mindset and improve motivation and school outcomes . Our life-skills curriculum has been developed by specialists in the field of psychology and education, in collaboration with practitioners in Leaping Boundaries, a non-profit aiming to increase visibility and improve life chances of women and girls from the most marginalized populations of Bangladesh. The curriculum is focused on adopting mindfulness to create a deeper understanding of the self. The curriculum tackles topics of loneliness, inner critics, boundaries, anxiety, and anger - which contribute to feelings of exclusion within the self.

The eventual objective of our study is to gather experimental evidence on the efficacy of this intervention. We want to examine if non-cognitive skills of encountering adversity, which is a form on non-financial resource, will allow vulnerable girls to better equipped to overcome the constraints of their environment and obtain better schooling outcomes. If the key objectives are met, we hope to scale up the delivery of similar initiatives across larger school systems through the dissemination of the customized module.

Our study's population will consist of 472 adolescent students in three madrasahs attending grades 6 to 10 in Dhaka City. It is estimated that madrasah-based education system provides education to more than 1.5 million female students in Bangladesh (Badrunnesha and Kwauk, 2015). Madrasah students face multiple challenges stemming from poor-quality education and uncomfortable classroom environments which inhibit open dialogue and interaction (Ahmad, 2009). Students enrolled in these institutions suffer from exclusion and low visibility at multiple levels. This sense of exclusion can hence develop a sense of prolonged identity crisis, feelings of vulnerability and lack of confidence. Adolescent adversity in a resource-constrained environment is recognized as a potent risk factor for mental health challenges (Kuhlman et al, 2019), and often lead to high levels of school dropout.

We have conducted a baseline survey of all students belonging to both the treatment and control groups. The key indicators for which information baseline has been obtained is elaborated in the section above. We also collected data on household income and labor outcomes, and other individual characteristics e.g. social media usage and attitudes towards gender and social norms. Our stratified randomized design implies that students from each of the three participating madrasahs will be randomly assigned to the life-skills treatment. Students in the control group will continue as originally planned, without any seminar or intervention. Our unit of analysis is an individual student.

We will begin administering eight workshops on life skills in the final week of August 2022 at the three institutions. The treatment sample consists of a total of 235 students (104 boys and 131 girls) from grades 6 to 10. The control sample consists of 237 students from the same grades and a similar gender composition. Table 1 provides summary statistics on a wide variety of outcomes from our baseline surveys, as well as balance tests across the treatment and control groups. Table 2 provides a breakdown of all students by Madrasah, grade, and treatment assignment.

Each workshop will last for an hour and will be delivered weekly, and therefore the intervention will involve a total of 8 days of delivery spanning eight weeks. The follow-up (post) intervention survey will be conducted with both the treatment and control students after the curriculum delivery has been completed.

The workshops will be delivered by five trainers, who themselves have already undergone three training sessions on the delivery of the life-skills curriculum. The curriculum and the delivery modes will be standardized across all five trainers. We will account for trainer fixed effects in our specification, to account for any unobserved heterogeneity in the quality of training provided.


Intervention Start Date
2022-09-01
Intervention End Date
2022-11-07

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Our experimental design is targeted towards understanding and evaluating the benefits of a life-skills curriculum. To this end, we include survey questions intended to measure several relevant life-skill outcomes that are part of the curriculum. We hypothesize that the intervention will lower incidences of depression, promote a growth mindset, lower anxiety about school performance, improve self-esteem and outlook about the future, enhance anger coping strategies, develop better self-perceived health and social interactions, and enhance perceived safety. For each of these outcomes, we construct indices based on the relevant literature.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
We include a brief description below of all the outcome variables and indices our survey has been designed to capture.

• Depression (CESD Scale): Our survey includes five questions on a four-point scale to capture Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D), intended to measure subjective mental well-being.
• Growth mindset: Our survey includes four questions on a six-point scale to capture growth mindset, which is a previously validated measure based on Yeager et al. (2016) and Bettinger et al. (2018).
• School anxiety: We employ the Westside Test Anxiety Scale (Driscoll, 2007), which consists of ten questions on a five-point scale.
• Future outlook: We adapt the Future Outlook Inventory (FOI) to construct a module consisting of four questions on a four-point scale (Dinning and Evans, 1977).
• Anger inventory: We include the Adolescent Anger Rating Scale Questionnaire and Behavioral Anger Response Questionnaire (Burney et al, 2001) in our survey.
• Perception of self: We adapt existing self-perception tools to construct a modeul containing five questions on a five-point scale.
• Peer relations: We include a module consisting of six questions on a five-point scale to evaluate the quality of peer relations.
• Perceived safety and abuse index: We use 11 questions to capture perceived safety, and nine questions to measure incidences of physical and verbal mistreatment.
• Behavioral outcomes and achievement: We will collect measures to look at behavioral outcomes in school following the intervention. Behavioral outcomes include satisfactorily completing school assignments, days and hours of absence and grades and so on.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We will conduct a stratified randomized controlled trial to examine whether our customized life-skills curriculum lead to increased incidence of growth mindsets among students using an experimental design with control and treatment groups in 3 participating madrasahs in Dhaka City. The three madrasahs were selected based on their willingness to participate, and after taking into account logistical and budgetary limitations. We then stratified our sample of 472 students by the madrasahs they attend. This means that we randomly allocated students into the treatment and control arms within each madrasah. The randomization was carried out to ensure balance across a wide number of pre-treatment covariates that include various individual and household characteristics, as well as baseline values of our outcomes of interest (Table 1). Our unit of analysis is an individual student.

A key concern is the potential for spillover effects, particularly among treatment and control students in the same madrasah. To this end, we collected school social network data in our baseline survey, following the methodology in Ye (2022). The module on social network collected data on students' extracurricular activities, friendship network, and those who are most influential within their network. This information will enable us to quantify spillover effects within the same madrasah.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
We will conduct a stratified randomized controlled trial to examine whether our customized life-skills curriculum lead to increased incidence of growth mindsets among students using an experimental design with control and treatment groups in 3 participating madrasahs in Dhaka City. The three madrasahs were selected based on their willingness to participate, and after taking into account logistical and budgetary limitations. We then stratified our sample of 472 students by the madrasahs they attend. This means that we randomly allocated students into the treatment and control arms within each madrasah. The randomization was carried out to ensure balance across a wide number of pre-treatment covariates that include various individual and household characteristics, as well as baseline values of our outcomes of interest (Table 1). Our unit of analysis is an individual student.
Randomization Unit
The unit of randomization is an individual student.
Was the treatment clustered?
Yes

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
3 Madrasahs
Sample size: planned number of observations
472
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
235 Treatment, 237 Control
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
For each of the main outcome variables considered, we determined the power of our design by employing a J-PAL algorithm for a stratified research design . We obtained the required parameter estimates for each of the outcome variable from our baseline survey of 472 students. Parameters retrieved from the baseline survey data for a particular outcome variable include the intra-cluster correlation coefficient, within-cluster variation, and the control-group intercept. We provide power estimates for each of our main outcome variables that were described in section 2.2. Our sample size of 472 individuals stratified across three madrasahs yield the following power estimates: • Growth index: yields a power of 0.931 for a minimum detectable effect of 10 percent over the average amount • Future outlook: yields a power of 0.915 for a minimum detectable effect of 10 percent over the average amount • School anxiety: yields a power of 0.81 for a minimum detectable effect of 10 percent over the average amount • Anger inventory: yields a power of 0.76 for a minimum detectable effect of 10 percent over the average amount • Depression index: power of 0.668 for a minimum detectable effect of 10 percent over the average amount. • Self-perception: yields a power of 0.893 for a minimum detectable effect of 10 percent over the average amount • Peer relations : yields a power of 0.84 for a minimum detectable effect of 10 percent over the average amount • Perceived safety and abuse: yields a power of 0.91 for a minimum detectable effect of 10 percent over the average amount
Supporting Documents and Materials

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IRB

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
North South University
IRB Approval Date
2021-01-10
IRB Approval Number
2020/OR-NSU/IRB/1107