An effort to improve school infrastructure in Niger helped strengthen academic performance, particularly among girls, according to a new impact evaluation by Mathematica Policy Research. Mathematica’s findings on IMAGINE (IMprove the educAtion of Girls In NigEr), a project funded by the Millennium Challenge Corporation, are detailed in a new issue brief and report.
IMAGINE provided a sustained boost to the quality and functionality of school infrastructure—durable classrooms, potable water sources, teacher housing, and separate toilets for girls and boys. Three years after these improvements were made, children were 8.3 percentage points more likely to report having been enrolled in school last year. Children ages 6 to 14 were absent less often, and math test scores were higher. The project improved girls’ enrollment, attendance, and test scores, with 72.1 percent of girls enrolling (versus 60.3 percent in comparison villages).
“These valuable data from Niger provide compelling evidence for governments and donors in thinking about how to develop effective programs to provide access to quality education for children across the developing world, especially for girls,” said Mathematica researcher Emilie Bagby, principal investigator on the study.
The impact of “girl-friendly” schools in Niger
Mathematica researchers conducted the IMAGINE evaluation in 178 villages across Niger. They assessed efforts to improve educational outcomes for children in targeted communities and took a concerted look at environmental factors related to increasing girls’ access to schooling.
Despite gains in the past decade, Niger’s school enrollment and completion rates are among the lowest in the world, and there is a marked gender gap. Overseen by the U.S. Agency for International Development, Plan International built primary schools around the country with high quality infrastructure, seeking to increase girls’ and overall enrollment and completion rates. Mathematica’s rigorous evaluation looked at three main areas of impact: infrastructure, educational outcomes (enrollment, attendance, and test scores), and achievement between genders.
Encouraging school enrollment
Researchers used data collected from households, including testing all school-age children in the households in math and French, as well as data from schools to see if the improved infrastructure in IMAGINE schools led to sustained gains in educational outcomes over three years. The evaluation shows that the higher quality schools may be encouraging parents to enroll children at higher rates and could lead to more consistent attendance.
Learn more about this project and other Mathematica international research.