Can Mobile Phones Improve Learning? Evidence from a Field Experiment in Niger
American Economic Journal: Applied Economics
The returns to educational investments hinge on whether such investments can improve the quality and persistence of educational gains. This has been a challenge in adult education programs, which are typically characterized by rapid skills depreciation. We report the results from a randomized evaluation of an adult education program (Project ABC) in Niger, in which adult students learned how to use simple mobile phones as part of a literacy and numeracy class. Overall, students demonstrated
... ts demonstrated substantial improvements in writing and math skills. Students in ABC villages achieved additional literacy and numeracy gains, with test scores that were .20-.26 standard deviations higher than those in non-ABC villages. There are persistent impacts of the program: seven months after the end of classes, average math test scores are still higher in ABC villages. These effects are driven by the effectiveness of mobile phones both as an educational input and as a motivational tool. Mobile phones increase educational outcomes most for students with the worst teachers, thus providing evidence of their usefulness as an educational tool. We also provide evidence that mobile phones increase motivation because they increase the value that students attach to the skills learned in class. These results suggest that simple and cheap information technology can be harnessed to improve educational outcomes among rural populations.