Impacts of Montessori-Based Preschool Spaces in Rural Northern Nigeria on Girls Schooling and Learning Outcomes

Last registered on May 03, 2022


Trial Information

General Information

Impacts of Montessori-Based Preschool Spaces in Rural Northern Nigeria on Girls Schooling and Learning Outcomes
Initial registration date
May 02, 2022

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
May 03, 2022, 9:51 AM EDT

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 Pennsylvania

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Florida State University

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Estimates suggest that 250 million children under 5-years of age in low- and middle-income countries are at risk of not reaching their developmental potential (Lu, Black, & Richter, 2016). Compared to other regions, sub-Saharan Africa has the highest prevalence of children at risk, with 38% of the 143 million children younger than 5 stunted and 50% living in extreme poverty (Lu et al., 2016). Early childhood
education (ECE) can support child development; estimates suggest that the benefit–cost ratio of increasing ECE access in LMICs is considerable (Engle et al., 2011). Whether ECE targeted to the most vulnerable girls in a community can reduce gender inequalities is not known. Northern Nigeria has some of the world’s highest rates of child marriage and maternal mortality and lowest rates of female literacy. The most vulnerable girls in a rural northern Nigerian community are often those who have never even enrolled in school. The present study is a partnership between the Centre for Girls Education and academic researchers. Using a matched-pair mixed methods community-randomized trial, we test the impacts of a high-quality, Montessori-based ECE program for vulnerable girls on schooling and learning outcomes in the short- and medium-term, and on parental investments in girls’ education.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Wolf, Sharon and Stephanie Zuilkowski. 2022. "Impacts of Montessori-Based Preschool Spaces in Rural Northern Nigeria on Girls Schooling and Learning Outcomes." AEA RCT Registry. May 03.
Sponsors & Partners

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Experimental Details


CGE has adapted the safe space methodology to rural schoolgirls’ need for strengthened core academic competencies and mentored support. The safe spaces—a safe physical space, friends, and a trained mentor—complement the girls' formal schooling and offer
opportunities to build trusting relationships and acquire critical life skills not currently offered in primary and secondary education. However, the most vulnerable girls are often those who have never even enrolled in school. Their parents—the poorest and most marginalized in the
community—face an intimidating array of barriers to educating their daughters. CGE has now reached 60,000 girls with two years of programming. Their Second Chance program helps out-ofschool girls (ages 10-14) gain the basic academic skills needed to enroll in a government school.

However, by that age the acquisition of basic academic skills such as literacy and numeracy is far more difficult. Building on the success of the safe spaces program, CGE developed the Ci Gaba preschool program (translated as going forward, advancing, or progressing), which starts with girls at age 3 and supports them as they progress through early childhood developmental milestones and prepares them for enrollment in primary school. The objectives are to (i) enhance school readiness (cognitive, fine motor and social-emotional skills), (ii) accelerate acquisition of basic literacy and numeracy skills, and (iii) facilitate primary school enrollment.

Teachers are selected from CGE’s former safe space program participants who have now advanced to the Federal Teachers’ College. An expert teacher at The Berkeley School (formally Berkeley Montessori) has led several 3-week workshops for the program staff and for professors at the Federal College of Education; the professors have now taken over the training of the mentors. In the Montessori approach, students are encouraged to direct their own learning at their own pace. In Ci Gaba, girls learn from working with Montessori educational
materials made locally at low cost in Nigeria from wood and other natural materials. Every material in a Montessori classroom supports an aspect of child development; CGE is finding the concreteness of the method to be ideal for the girls enrolled. State governments in northern Nigeria are slowly beginning to expand government preschools. The Montessori approach, as adapted by CGE, could prove to be ideal for this setting. For example, since the children work alone during work periods, teachers in government schools would have more time to spend one-on-one with them, even with the large student-teacher ratios found in government schools.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Year 1 follow-up: School readiness (early literacy, early numeracy, motor, social-emotional, and executive function) measured as a composite (primary analysis) and each individual component (secondary analysis)

Year 2 and 3 follow-up: Primary school enrollment and attendance, and grade progression
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
At the first-year follow-up, we will collect data on girls’ skills and conduct longer surveys with parents. We will conduct direct assessments of early literacy, early numeracy, social-emotional, and executive function skills using the International Development and Early Learning
Assessment (IDELA; Pisani et al., 2018), a direct measure of holistic child learning and development designed for use in low- and middle-income countries.

At the second and third follow-ups, brief surveys with parents and school administrative records will be collected to examine impacts on school enrollment, attendance, and grade progression.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Parental investments in girls education
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Surveys with parents will be conducted and adapted from an ECE study in Ghana (Wolf & McCoy, 2019) including socio-demographic characteristics, parental perceptions of quality ECE, and direct investments in girls’ education.

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
At baseline, we collect data on all sampled girls’ skills, brief surveys with parents, and community-level data (i.e., safety of access to the community, size of community, distance from road, distance from town, presence of a primary school, number (if any) female teachers at the
school, and economic base). These variables will be used in the match-pair randomization process. 16 communities in total will be recruited, yielding 8 pairs in total.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Match-pair community randomized trial.
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
18 communities
Sample size: planned number of observations
540 girls (30 per community)
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
8 communities control, 8 communities Ci Gaba intervention
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Using data from two previous studies in West Africa, we assume 80% power, an ICC for learning outcomes = 0.07, and R-square at Level 2 of 0.2 (given direct baseline assessments with all participants and a comprehensive set of community-level characteristics). Within each community, 30 girls are assessed (N = 540 total), giving a minimum detectable effect size of 0.37 standard deviations. Given the large contrast between treatment and control communities from internal monitoring data, this effect size is reasonable.
Supporting Documents and Materials


Document Name
Baseline child assessments
Document Type
Document Description
Baseline child assessments

MD5: de01c72a1327ab5b33694ea2d91d4f40

SHA1: 9476956e8888645fe5f185eff941a21980b63f9e

Uploaded At: May 02, 2022

Document Name
Baseline parent survey
Document Type
Document Description
Baseline parent survey

MD5: 96d9d3ffb96e25dccf3c5a5f5197c513

SHA1: cb2555986263400feb552c2b901ae77ce2623244

Uploaded At: May 02, 2022


Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Ahmadu Bello University
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number