We present experimental evidence on the impact of a multi-faceted program that integrates technology into education, provides ongoing teacher training and professional development, includes community ownership, and offers free primary education. Our setting is three districts in relatively impoverished areas of rural Zambia, where we randomly assigned the program across 30 treatment and 33 control schools.
We compared all children who were eligible to enroll in first grade living near the 30 treatment schools with eligible children who lived near the 33 control schools 14 months after the program start. The results show that the program, on average, increased early grade reading scores with 0.40 standard deviations or 3.5 percentage points, early grade math scores with 0.22 standard deviations or 4.9 percentage points, the Zambian achievement test scores with 0.16 standard deviations or 3.1 percentage points, and oral vocabulary scores with 0.25 standard deviations or 6.0 percentage points for all children who were eligible to enroll in first grade during the baseline survey.
Treatment Effects on the Treated showed substantially larger impacts on test scores of students who enrolled in Grade 1 (ranging from 0.26 to 0.68 standard deviations) and students who regularly attended the schools in Grade 1 (ranging from 0.32 to 0.83 standard deviations).
Mixed-methods evidence suggested the positive effects were primarily driven by increase in school enrolment, improvements in the quality of education, increases in school attendance for both teachers and children, and strong fidelity of program implementation. Our results indicate that well-designed multi-faceted technology-aided instruction programs can improve learning outcomes even in the poorest areas of rural sub-Saharan Africa