Field experiments studying the impacts of various interventions on student achievement have grown exponentially over the past few decades. This project takes a different angle: can new educational facilities change the responsiveness of student performance to external incentives? We focus on a secondary education setting in northern Tanzania, where over 90% of students are failing their national promotional mathematics examinations. Collaborating with 172 schools without electricity, we provide half of the schools with solar panels, TVs, mathematics curriculum videos and integrated textbooks. In addition, for half of the facilities-receiving schools and half of the control schools, we provide within-school-varied monetary incentives pegged on the students’ upcoming examination scores. We study reduced-form evidence on the impacts of these interventions; in particular, evidence on how the elasticity of human capital supply responds to the introduction of new learning facilities, with implications for inequality and growth. We then estimate a model of classroom knowledge production, simulating policy and welfare.
We also report, in this presentation, very short-term results from a preliminary pilot, where we provided biology and geography exam-prep videos without any textbooks, in October, 2015, 35 days before the national examinations. In an administrative survey conducted in February, 2016, schools that received solar power reported to keep schools open more frequently during extra hours (early morning and evening) for approximately 0.7 more days per week (0.3 standard deviation points). As for impact on national examination results for the 2015 graduating cohort, we estimate null effects. We rule out any impact of the 35-day trial on test scores beyond 0.07 standard deviation points and any impact on pass rates beyond 3 percentage points. Longer term results for the 2016 graduating cohort (11th graders), as well as for the study cohort receiving the more comprehensive mathematics education support (9th graders), are being awaited.