Unlocking Talent in Malawi: Impact of an Ed Tech Intervention on Literacy and Numeracy Learning in Early Primary Grades
Last registered on March 02, 2020

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Unlocking Talent in Malawi: Impact of an Ed Tech Intervention on Literacy and Numeracy Learning in Early Primary Grades
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0003882
Initial registration date
February 28, 2020
Last updated
March 02, 2020 4:14 PM EST
Location(s)
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
Imagine Worldwide
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
Imagine Worldwide
PI Affiliation
University of Malawi
Additional Trial Information
Status
On going
Start date
2019-10-02
End date
2020-07-03
Secondary IDs
Abstract
The 8-month Unlocking Talent (UT) study tests the efficacy of onebillion’s onecourse literacy and numeracy applications in the Chichewa language, delivered on iPads to Standard 2 (grade 2) children during the 2019-20 school year in Malawi. The study represents an efficacy RCT using a non-clustered, blocked individual random assignment design. Two government primary schools were purposively selected for the study: one urban and one peri-urban school located in the Central Region. Conditions in the two communities and schools are challenging. Families in both communities are very low income and face food security issues and other poverty-related challenges. Neither school has electricity and class sizes at both schools are very large (up to 100 children). All eligible Standard 2 learners ages 6-10 were randomly assigned independently within the two schools to treatment and control groups. The treatment groups are using either the literacy or numeracy curriculum—not both—for 40 minutes per day during the regular school day. Children in the treatment groups step out of different standard classes on different days of the week to attend the learning center, where the program is delivered. Thus, the intervention represents a supplement to normal instruction in the tablet subject. The control group students continue with standard instruction only. The study uses an experimental design to ensure that differences in learning gains between the treatment and control groups can be attributed to the tablet intervention rather than to pre-existing differences among the groups. The experimental design ensures a high level of internal validity that provides rigorous estimates of the impacts at the two schools included in the study. However, due to the purposive selection of the schools, impact estimates may not generalize to all Malawi government primary schools.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Chigeda, Antonie, Karen Levesque and Symon Winiko. 2020. "Unlocking Talent in Malawi: Impact of an Ed Tech Intervention on Literacy and Numeracy Learning in Early Primary Grades." AEA RCT Registry. March 02. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.3882-1.0.
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Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
The study tests the efficacy of onebillion’s onecourse literacy and numeracy applications in the Chichewa language delivered through the Unlocking Talent implementation model. Unlocking Talent represents a collaboration between VSO Malawi, onebillion, and the Malawian Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. The program is currently in about 100 Malawi government primary schools and focuses on Standard 2 (grade 2) children. The onecourse curriculum follows accepted literacy and numeracy pedagogy and is loosely aligned to the Malawi national education standards (National Education Standards 11 and 13, 2015). Children progress through the tablet curriculum at their own pace. The implementation model involves building a learning center at each school that accommodates 60 children at a time. The curriculum is delivered on 60 iPads, which are charged nightly by a battery that is powered by a solar cell installed on the roof of the learning center. The Standard 2 children in the treatment groups rotate through the learning center to use the tablets for 40 minutes per day. A rotation schedule is established so that children step out of different standard classes on different days of the week to attend the learning center. Thus, the intervention represents a supplement to normal instruction in the tablet subject. The control group students continue with standard instruction only.
Intervention Start Date
2019-10-22
Intervention End Date
2020-07-03
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Primary and secondary outcomes are based on the Malawi adaptations of the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) and Early Grade Mathematics Assessment (EGMA). Outcomes were selected based on prior experience with a pilot study during 2018-19.

Primary outcomes for the impact analysis include: (1) literacy as measured by overall EGRA average percent correct and (2) numeracy as measured by number identification percent correct.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Learning outcomes for all study participants (treatment and control groups) are measured using the Malawi adaptations of the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) and Early Grade Mathematics Assessment (EGMA) in the Chichewa language. The same forms of the test are used at baseline (September 2019) and endline (July 2020). EGRA and EGMA were developed to fill a gap in international assessment of foundational and emerging literacy and numeracy skills and have become the early grade assessment standard in developing countries and development organizations. The Malawi adaptation of the EGRA in Chichewa used in the 2019-20 study includes seven subtests: letter sounds, syllable reading, familiar word reading, nonword reading, listening comprehension, oral reading fluency, and reading comprehension. The EGMA includes eight core subtests: number identification, quantity discrimination, pattern completion, word problems, addition level 1 (single digits), addition level 2 (multiple digits), subtraction level 1 (single digits), and subtraction level 2 (multiple digits). The EGRA and EGMA subtests reflect fundamental skills needed for the acquisition of reading and mathematics knowledge and that are predictive of later reading and math success. The primary literacy outcome represents a composite measure averaging the percent correct for each of the seven EGRA subtests administered. The primary numeracy outcome represents the percent correct on the EGMA number identification subtest specifically. For the EGRA and EGMA outcome measures, we will calculate gain scores as the difference between children’s performance at baseline and endline.
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary outcomes for additional exploratory analysis are also based on EGRA and EGMA. Literacy subtests include: nonword reading percent correct, listening comprehension percent correct, reading comprehension percent correct, letter sounds percent correct, oral reading fluency. Numeracy overall and subtests include: overall EGMA total percent correct, pattern completion percent correct, addition Level 1 percent correct, addition Level 2 percent correct, word problems percent correct
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
We target for exploratory analysis a subset of literacy and numeracy outcome measures that reflect important precursor skills as well as ultimate outcomes of interest. For literacy, we select five out of the seven EGRA subtests that reflect both reading progress and attainment. Three of these subtests are incorporated in the Simple View of Reading, which asserts that reading comprehension is largely the product of decoding and linguistic comprehension. We use the EGRA nonword reading, listening comprehension, and reading comprehension subtests to represent these constructs. We also target two additional literacy skills: letter sounds as an early precursor reading skill and oral reading fluency. For numeracy, in addition to the EGMA composite measure, we select four additional EGMA subtests that reflect the goal of arithmetic fluency with number sense. Pattern completion measures fundamental number sense skills. The other three subtests (addition with single digits [level 1], addition with multiple digits [level 2], and word problems) measure arithmetic operations skills. For each EGRA and EGMA outcome measure, we will calculate gain scores as the difference between children’s performance at baseline and endline.
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
Randomized controlled trial
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Non-clustered, blocked individual random assignment design
Randomization Unit
Individual-level
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
None
Sample size: planned number of observations
581 children are enrolled in the study.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
190 children were assigned to each of the literacy and numeracy conditions. 201 children were assigned to the control condition.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
The sample size is based on an assumption of a minimum detectable effect size of 0.28, which is smaller than the impacts found in prior studies of onebillion’s software in Malawi.
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
Malawi National Commission for Science & Technology, National Committee on Research in the Social Sciences and Humanities
IRB Approval Date
2018-09-17
IRB Approval Number
Ref. No. NCST/RTT/2/6, Protocol No. P.08/18/302
Analysis Plan
Analysis Plan Documents
Unlocking Talent in Malawi: Analysis Plan

MD5: 614e523d94b7201fd0f32a6fae5cbe35

SHA1: a2796059e90732e911104fc5471511c4f078bcf9

Uploaded At: February 28, 2020

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