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Stemming Learning Loss During the Pandemic: A Rapid Randomized Trial of a Low-Tech Interventions In Botswana
Last registered on June 29, 2020


Trial Information
General Information
Stemming Learning Loss During the Pandemic: A Rapid Randomized Trial of a Low-Tech Interventions In Botswana
Initial registration date
June 25, 2020
Last updated
June 29, 2020 11:20 AM EDT
Primary Investigator
Columbia University Teachers College
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
Young 1ove
PI Affiliation
Young 1ove
PI Affiliation
Oxford; World Bank; Young 1ove
Additional Trial Information
In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
With over 1.5 billion learners out of school, the COVID-19 pandemic has paralyzed education systems worldwide. This necessitates new education models, including the use of education technology for distance learning. Many efforts to date have focused on higher-technology solutions, such as internet-based smart phone applications. We evaluate two ‘low-tech’ solutions that leverage text-messages and text-messages and direct phone calls to parents to empower them to educate their children in the household. These low-tech solutions have unique potential to reach the masses. While only 15-60% of households in low- and middle-income countries have internet access, 70-90% of households own at least one mobile phone. We run a large-scale trial with 4,500 parent and student phone numbers in Botswana representing half of the regions in the nation. We collect outcomes at one-month intervals. This frequency enables rapid assessment and sharing of results. Results aim to be relevant to both in the present crisis as well as during future school closures, and inform the role of parents and technology more broadly as substitutes rather than complements of the traditional education institution, schools, for human capital accumulation.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Angrist, Noam et al. 2020. "Stemming Learning Loss During the Pandemic: A Rapid Randomized Trial of a Low-Tech Interventions In Botswana." AEA RCT Registry. June 29. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.6044-1.0.
Experimental Details
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Our primary outcome is performance on a version of the ASER test.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Our secondary outcomes are performance on the individual items of the test. We will then measure also measure the number of hours parents spent engaging in educational activities in a week (described further below), parents’ perceptions of their child’s academic performance, whether families listened to educational radio.
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
The intervention was randomized at the household level to either SMS only, SMS+phone calls or a control group. After week 4, half the sample was assessed, and assigned content targeted to each student's level (delivered in accordance to their original treatment assignment--SMS or SMS+phone--the control still received no instructional content). Randomization was stratified by whether or not the student had participated in the Teaching at the Right Level program prior to the study.
Experimental Design Details
We will analyze outcomes using a simple regression with indicators for each treatment arm, controlling for the strata and using robust standard errors. We will discretize hours of engagement into 0 to 6+ and don't know, and run a chi2 test on the distribution for each treatment arm versus the control. We will also study the effect on 1hrs+ and the continuous measure, though we anticipate the latter will be noisy and will focus on the discretized measures. We will study gender as a subgroup.
Randomization Method
Office by computer
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
4500 families.
Sample size: planned number of observations
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Approximately 1500.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB Name
Teachers College IRB
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
20-299 Protocol
Analysis Plan

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Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Is the intervention completed?
Is data collection complete?
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
Program Files
Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials
Relevant Paper(s)