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Improving Primary School Learning Trough Teaching at the Right Level and Community Engagement: Evidence from Assam, India
Initial registration date
April 09, 2018
September 20, 2019 5:52 AM EDT
Trinity College Dublin
Other Primary Investigator(s)
Stockholm School of Economics
Additional Trial Information
The dramatic improvements in enrollment rates that have been achieved in most developing countries over the past decade have not been matched by comparable improvements in learning outcomes. In other words, more time in school has not translated to more learning. India is a case in point: according to the Annual Status of Education Report more than 96% of all children in the age group of 6-14 years are enrolled in school, but only half of children in Grade 5 can read a Grade 2 level text or solve simple two-digit subtraction problems. Clearly, increasing the quantity of schooling is not enough and there is an urgent need to better understand how to improve the quality of schooling (learning outcomes), especially in the poorest areas of the world.
This research project will focus on two major constraints contributing to poor learning performance. First, teachers in most developing countries are expected to teach a demanding curriculum, regardless of the learning levels of the children. Hence, if a child is lost in early grades, it becomes very hard for him or her to catch up, as teachers put more weight on covering the grade-level curriculum than on making sure everybody achieves strong basic skills . Second, children often receive little support for their learning outside school, from family and community. This makes it very hard to practice and improve on whatever they have learned in class. By partnering with the largest NGO working in the Indian education sector, we plan to evaluate the effectiveness of two programs that specifically addresses these two constraints, over a period of 18 months. These programs will be evaluated at large-scale using a randomized controlled trial methodology and exploiting the expansion of Pratham’s activities within the state of Assam, in India. The research is expected to contribute to new and better understanding on which programs and policies work and which do not, and how effective policies can be used to improve children’s learning levels in the poorest part of the world.
Guariso, Andrea and Martina Nyqvist. 2019. "Improving Primary School Learning Trough Teaching at the Right Level and Community Engagement: Evidence from Assam, India." AEA RCT Registry. September 20.
This research project will be implemented in the district of Nagaon, within the state of Assam (India), by Pratham, the largest NGO working on education in the country. The research project consists of two different interventions: Learning Camps and Library Activity Groups.
1) Learning Camps
The Learning Camps represents Pratham’s flagship program, whose goal is to improve children’s learning ability by applying the “teaching at the right level” approach. The Learning Camps consist on intensive bursts of teaching-learning activity administered primarily by Pratham volunteers and staff during school hours, when regular teaching is temporarily suspended. The camps are confined to three periods of about 10 days each (for a total of 30 days), spread over a teaching term (5 months). On camp days, children in primary school are grouped according to their ability level and taught mathematics and language for about 1.5 hours each by Pratham staff and Pratham-trained local village volunteers. Teaching-learning activities and materials are tailored for each group and designed to help children to improve their learning. A recent study proved that the Learning Camps led to dramatic improvements in the ability to read and carry out simple maths for children in grades 3 to 5 in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Pratham is currently expanding this program to other areas of India but it is up to this point unclear whether the results are replicable also in other parts of the country. Moreover, little is known on how sustainable the impact is and how effective it is for children in grades 1 and 2. 2) Library Activity Groups
The Library Activity Groups are instead a new program, whose goal is to improve children’s learning ability by incentivizing study after school and by involving family and community members in the learning process. The Library Activity Groups will be set up in target villages by Pratham, and managed by local resources. More specifically, children at primary school age within each village will be organized in groups of 5 to 7 members. Each group will be coordinated by at least one family or community member. Pratham’s team members will conduct monthly visits to the communities to share learning material that aims to guide and support the activities of the groups. The aim of the Library Activity Groups is to facilitate the support of mothers, older siblings, or other community members in a more structured and organized manner with the goal to encourage primary school age children to study in groups outside of school. In this way the program wants to encourage support in the community for children’s learning, foster a culture of group-learning and out-of-school learning among children, and stimulate a desire to read so to enhance and sustain the skills that children might have acquired at school. The ultimate goal is to reach habitual changes among children and thereby to encourage studies after school hours.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Test Scores (figure recognition, mathematics, and reading)
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Time child spend studying out of school; Child satisfaction with school and study; Child aspiration (completed years of schooling); Household investments in education (Time spent supporting child’s learning and Level of engagement in the school); Aspirations and aspiration gap (aspirations vs expectations); Frequency of homework from school; Teacher and children attendance
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
The project will be evaluated using the RCT methodology. The evaluation will take advantage of the expansion of Pratham’s activities within the state of Assam, in India. The sample population will be randomly assigned to treatment groups (villages that will receive a particular program), and a comparison group (villages that will not receive any new program).
For this project, the analysis will be based on two main rounds of data collection. Baseline data will be collected from a sample of students and their respective households before the program is initiated (more details below). Endline data will be collected roughly 18 months from the baseline. The data will allows us to measure the causal effect of the intervention by comparing outcomes (e.g. learning achievements) in the treatment and control groups after the project has been running for some time. More specifically, for the purpose of this project we will identify 200 primary public schools within the state of Assam that are eligible for the program and where Pratham had never been operating before. We will then randomly assign each one of them to one of four groups of equal size:
• Group 1 (Control): these villages/school will not receive any new program, and schooling will continue as usual;
• Group 2 (Learning Camp): in these villages/school Pratham will organize Learning Camps;
• Group 3 (Library Activity Groups): in these villages/school Pratham will organize Library Activity Groups;
• Group 4 (Learning Camp + Library Activity Groups): in these villages/school Pratham will organize both Learning Camp and Library Activity Groups;
The primary outcomes of interest will be learning outcomes (test scores) in figure recognition, mathematics, and language of students enrolled in these primary public schools. Before the beginning of the programs, we will collect detailed baseline data from all 200 schools. We will rely on three key survey tools: children survey, primary caretaker survey, and school survey. The interventions will start in the treatment villages (groups 2, 3, and 4) after baseline data collection. The Library Activity Groups in groups 3 and 4 will begin immediately after data collection and will keep going for the full project time. The Learning Camps are instead typically administered in three rounds of 10 days each, distributed over a teaching term (about 5 months). Each school in the Learning Camps groups (i.e. groups 2 and 4) will receive the three sessions, although they will be administered in two different phases. A first set of schools will host the camps within 5 months from baseline, while the other set will receive it after that, i.e. roughly five months later. We will randomly select the schools that will receive the program first, stratifying by group. Endline data collection will take place roughly 18 months after baseline. Given that the Learning Camps only run during one school term, the endline survey will take place at least 5 months after the end of the program in the schools. Endline data collection will involve the same children, families, and school surveyed at baseline and will mirror the baseline data collection in its structures.
Experimental Design Details
The randomizations will always be implemented using a random number generator on a computer.
The unit of randomization will be the village. Each village in the sample hosts one (and only one) public primary school.
Was the treatment clustered?
Sample size: planned number of clusters
200 Villages, each one hosting one public primary school
Sample size: planned number of observations
6,400 students enrolled in public primary school grades 1-4 at baseline;
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
50 schools in each study arm:
• Group 1 (Control): 50 villages/schools
• Group 2 (Learning Camp): 50 villages/schools
• Group 3 (Library Activity Groups): 50 villages/schools
• Group 4 (Learning Camp + Library Activity Groups): 50 villages/schools
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
We based our computation on similar previous studies conducted in the country. We will work in 50 villages/schools in each one of the four study arms (200 in total) and survey an average of 32 children per school (i.e. 6,400 in total) at baseline. Assuming ICC=0.1 and attrition rate of 6.3% , we would be able to detect at the 5% significance level with 80% power an effect of the intervention equal to 0.2 standard deviation or larger. Our preliminary assessment is that this sample would be large enough to determine the expected effects for the two main interventions.
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
Ethic Review Board at Trinity College Dublin
IRB Approval Date
IFMR Human Subjects Committee
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Post Trial Information
Is the intervention completed?
Is data collection complete?