Motivating Disadvantaged Students during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Role of Information, Aspirations, and Perceptions

Last registered on November 21, 2021


Trial Information

General Information

Motivating Disadvantaged Students during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Role of Information, Aspirations, and Perceptions
Initial registration date
November 17, 2021

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
November 21, 2021, 3:54 PM EST

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


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Primary Investigator

University of Connecticut

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Inter-American Development Bank

Additional Trial Information

On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created major disruptions in education. We focus on Peru, a country with low academic performance pre-pandemic, where containment measures forced children to stay at home during the entire 2020 and 2021 school year. We implemented a nationwide large-scale experimental intervention aimed at reducing learning losses in public high schools. To motivate adolescents to stay in school and continue to study in the midst and aftermath of the pandemic, randomly selected schools will receive information about the requirements to apply to Beca 18, a merit-based national scholarship that funds all college-related expenses for poor students. We randomly assigned the selected families into three treatment arms that provide information on employment gains, current educational achievement, and role models, respectively, and a placebo treatment group that received a standard message, and into a control group that receives no information. We target rising sophomores (8th graders in Peru's education system), because eligibility for Beca 18 depends on the GPA in sophomore and junior years. Finally, we will follow students in 6,081 public schools for at least four years to evaluate their learning outcomes over time as well as their decision to graduate from high school, apply to college and obtain Beca 18.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Aguero, Jorge and Veronica Frisancho. 2021. "Motivating Disadvantaged Students during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Role of Information, Aspirations, and Perceptions." AEA RCT Registry. November 21.
Sponsors & Partners

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Experimental Details


Our study motivates students by providing information about a merit- and need-based scholarship to attend college. Created in late 2011, Beca 18 is the first full scholarship program for higher education funded by the national government in Peru. This trial conducts a large-scale experimental intervention that aims to motivate public school students, specifically those of low and medium-low socioeconomic status, through text messages.

We randomly assign schools into three treatment arms, a placebo treatment group, and a control group. The three treatment groups received general information about the eligibility criteria and coverage of Beca 18, but specific text messages separately to each treatment arm. The first treatment arm provides information about the labor market returns of Beca 18. Then, the second gives details about the current gap between the eligibility academic criteria of Beca 18 and the academic performance of of children. The third arm, instead, seeks to expand the aspirations window of both parents and their children through specific information of past Beca 18 beneficiaries in their region of residence. Additionally, the placebo treatment group only receives information about Aprendo en Casa, the Ministry of Education's multimedia platform (website, TV and radio), created for remote learning. Finally, the control group does not receive a message.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Our study design aims four primary outcome variables: high school graduation, Beca 18 eligibility, college application, and future aspirations.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
The high school graduation outcome will be measured using information on grade attainment by Year 3, average GPA of all years, and on-time high school graduation.

The Beca 18 eligibility outcome will be measured using information on relative class standing, whether the student applied, the test score in the Beca 18 national test, and whether the student is selected as a beneficiary.

The college application outcome will be measured using information on college characteristics (e.g., 3-year vs 5-year college, private or public, selective college, etc.) and the major choice: social science, STEM, humanities.

These outcomes come from administrative data thanks to our collaboration with MineduLab.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
We will further evaluate four secondary outcome variables: learning progress, parental involvement, and college aspirations.
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
The learning progress outcome will be measured using information on GPA, remedial education, and relative standing in class.

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
The intervention focuses on rising sophomores from public schools. Unlike senior students, sophomores can still change their academic performance to qualify as eligible for Beca 18. Out of the total secondary education, the sampling frame was restricted to 6,081 public schools with a minimum of 10 sophomore students and those with at least 25% of its students with a contact cellphone number. The poll of schools was stratified for parental wealth and previous educational achievement. Then, we randomly assigned the selected schools into the three treatment arms, the placebo treatment group, and the control.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
We utilize the randtreat Stata command to randomize at the cluster level, considering a bi-dimensional stratification (four strata) on previous mean students' academic achievement and mean students' family income at the school level.
Randomization Unit
We randomize at the cluster level: schools.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
6,080 schools.
Sample size: planned number of observations
134,256 students.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
1,219 schools pure control, 1,214 schools receives employment gains information, 1,219 schools receives current educational achievement information, 1,218 schools receives role models information, and 1,211 placebo treatment.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
The significance level of the test (α) was defined at 0.05 and the power of the test (β) at 0.8, that the minimum detectable effect would be 0.20 standard deviations (SD = 91.93) on the average score in mathematics, 560.29, that the average number of treated students per cluster would be 25 students, that the intraclass correlation coefficient (IIC) is 0.224 and that the coefficient of variation of the cluster size is 1.21. The results indicate that the we need to intervene 1,000 schools.

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
University of Connecticut IRB Office
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
IRB Name
University of Connecticut IRB Office
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number