x

Please fill out this short user survey of only 3 questions in order to help us improve the site. We appreciate your feedback!
Summer School, Language of Instruction, and Academic Outcomes: Experimental Evidence from Malawi
Last registered on March 19, 2018

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Summer School, Language of Instruction, and Academic Outcomes: Experimental Evidence from Malawi
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0002716
Initial registration date
March 19, 2018
Last updated
March 19, 2018 2:53 PM EDT
Location(s)
Region
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
Singapore Management University
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
Cornell University
Additional Trial Information
Status
On going
Start date
2017-08-02
End date
2018-08-31
Secondary IDs
Abstract
Most sub-Saharan African countries use a colonial language such as English or French as the medium of instruction. This language of instruction policy imposes great learning barriers to students who do not have fluency in the language. We study the impacts of learning in the mother tongue (Chichewa), compared to English in 32 primary schools in Malawi. We randomly recruit 854 students out of 4950 who just completed 4th and 5th grades for a 7-week-long summer learning camp, in which local, regular primary school teachers provided math and social studies lessons. In addition, we randomized the language of instruction: of the summer school participants, 419 students were taught in English and 435 were taught in Chichewa. Our research will provide important policy implications for the promotion of mother tongue education.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Kim, Bryant and Seonghoon Kim. 2018. "Summer School, Language of Instruction, and Academic Outcomes: Experimental Evidence from Malawi." AEA RCT Registry. March 19. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.2716-1.0.
Former Citation
Kim, Bryant, Seonghoon Kim and Seonghoon Kim. 2018. "Summer School, Language of Instruction, and Academic Outcomes: Experimental Evidence from Malawi." AEA RCT Registry. March 19. http://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/2716/history/26855.
Sponsors & Partners

There are documents in this trial unavailable to the public. Use the button below to request access to this information.

Request Information
Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
The academic achievements of primary school students in developing countries are generally low. Malawi is not an exception. Among the 15 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa taking the Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Education Quality (SACMEQ) standardized assessments, 6th graders in Malawi scored near the bottom in both reading and mathematics.

The language of instruction policy could impose learning barriers. In Malawi, the medium of instruction for the first four years of primary education is Chichewa - a most widely spoken local language. From the fifth grade onward, English becomes the language of instruction. Such transition is common in Sub-Saharan Africa. Of the 49 countries we reviewed, 26 countries do not use their local languages at all in primary education, and only Ethiopia, Somalia and Tanzania exclusively use their local languages over the entire period of primary education.

The use of English in primary school can be seen as a pathway to globalization and economic development. However, this language policy may impose learning barriers to children who do not have fluency in English. In fact, UNICEF advocates the importance of mother tongue education and recommends it to African countries (UNICEF, 2016). Existing research indicates that teaching in the mother tongue increases attendance and reduce dropouts (Laitin et al., 2017; Ramachandran, 2017). In addition, it could improve parental engagements in children’s learning experience. For example, parents can help their children’s school works more effectively because they can understand the language.

Notwithstanding the importance of the language of instruction on education outcomes, causal evidence is rare. To provide rigorous evidence on mother tongue education, we implement a randomized controlled trial in collaboration with Africa Future Foundation (AFF), an international NGO, in the context of a summer learning camp in rural Malawi.

Specifically, we evaluate the impacts of learning in mother tongue (Chichewa) against that in English in 31 primary schools in Malawi. Out of the 4950 primary school students who just completed the 4th and 5th grades, we randomly recruited 854 for a 7-week-long summer learning camp. The learning camp was sponsored and operated by the AFF, our local collaborating NGO.

The curriculum of the learning camp was 5th grade-level math and social studies. The lessons were conducted by local, regular primary school teachers. Hence, the 4th grade participants were given a chance to study the 5th grade material early and the 5th grade participants were given a chance to review what they learned in the past year.
In addition, to isolate the impact of the language of instruction among the summer school participants, we randomized the language of instruction. 419 students were taught in English and 435 were taught in Chichewa.

Through this study, we aim to understand whether and how much extending the local language stream to more advanced grades could be an effective policy to improve primary school students’ educational achievements. To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first randomized controlled trial to estimate the impact of the language of instruction on children’s learning outcomes in developing countries where teaching is still conducted in the former colonizer’s language.

In addition, we contribute to the literature by providing evidence of the impacts of the summer learning camp on education outcomes. Most of the primary school children in rural Malawi do not receive any educational experiences at all during the summer break. As a result, this break period is a critical time window that can improve academic outcomes by providing seamless education services to primary school children in rural areas.
Intervention Start Date
2017-08-02
Intervention End Date
2017-09-12
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
The main outcomes are students’ test scores in math and social studies during the summer camp, at the follow-up surveys, and the regular semester’s final exams. As secondary outcomes, we will use test score of subjects that were not covered by summer camp (Bible knowledge, English, Chichewa, Science, and Art/Life Skills) as well as simple computation test and Raven’s matrices test measured at the short-term and long-term follow-up surveys. To explore mechanisms, we will examine students’ attendance, study input, non-cognitive traits (self-esteem, Big 5 personality traits), study attitude, and parents’ input.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design
Experimental Design
This study attempts to estimate the causal effects of the language of instruction on primary school children who experience language transition from a local native language (Chichewa) to English in the context of a summer learning program in rural Malawi. To address our research question, we design and implement a field experiment over two stages. In the first stage, we randomly offer an opportunity to attend the summer learning camp in rural Malawi. In the second stage, upon those who accept our offer, we randomly assign them to two different types of classes: (T1) a teacher teaches in English with a textbook in English; (T2) a teacher teaches in Chichewa with a textbook in Chichewa. Comparing T1 and T2 arms isolates the causal effects of the language of instruction. In addition, we isolate the causal effects of the summer learning camp by comparing both T1 and T2 students against those who did not receive the summer learning camp intervention.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Grade-school level randomization for the summer school and language of instruction was done in the AFF office privately by a computer.
Randomization Unit
The summer school program and the language of instruction are randomly assigned at grade-school level.
Was the treatment clustered?
Yes
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
62 grades in 31 schools (4th-5th graders at the onset of the intervention). As of March, 2018, they became 5th-6th graders if they progressed successfully to the next grade.
Sample size: planned number of observations
4950 students (Standard 4 and 5 students at the beginning of the intervention)
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
854 treated students (English treatment: 419 students, local language treatment: 435 students)
4096 control students (who did not receive the summer learning camp offer)
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
Singapore Management University Institutional Review Board
IRB Approval Date
2017-12-28
IRB Approval Number
IRB-17-134-A134(1217)
Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
No
Is data collection complete?
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No
Program Files
Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials
Relevant Paper(s)
REPORTS & OTHER MATERIALS