Inception Report for the Mixed- Methods Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial of Impact Network’s eSchool 360 Model in Rural Zambia
Approximately 250 million children across the world are not acquiring basic reading and math skills, even though about half of them have spent at least four years in school. Although the use of technology in education shows a lot of promise for improving learning outcomes in low-and middle-income countries, the evidence on its impacts is underwhelming. Its effectiveness could, however, be improved if technology were combined with a strong focus on pedagogical practices.
This study focuses on the effects and cost-effectiveness of Impact Network’s eSchool 360 program in producing improvements in learning outcomes among students in community schools in rural Zambia. The core of the eSchool 360 model is e-learning technology; tablets and projectors provided by Impact Network’s partner, iSchool, loaded with a curriculum in the local language approved by the Zambian government. Impact Network supplements the technology by providing teacher training and professional development to community school teachers, providing electricity via solar power, and creating community ownership. Locally hired teachers receive weekly training focused on using the technology and enhancing their pedagogical skills.
The study focuses on the impact of the program on learning outcomes and on various intermediate outcomes along the causal chain of the theory of change, as well as on the implementation of the program to examine why and how the program achieves its impacts. In addition, we will examine the cost-effectiveness of the program in achieving learning outcomes. The overarching research questions for the study fall into three categories and are as follows:
- What is the effect of eSchool 360 on students’ numeracy, pre-literacy and literacy skills?
- Do students enrolled in the eSchool 360 program improve in numeracy and literacy skills?
- Does the eSchool 360 program increase attendance and enrollment?
- Does the eSchool 360 program lead to an improved perception of school and education quality among students, teachers, and parents?
- Does the eSchool 360 program improve parents’ and childrens’ aspirations?
- How cost-effective is the eSchool 360 program in improving literacy outcomes?
- How cost-effective is the eSchool 360 program in improving math outcomes?
- Was the program implemented as designed? If not, why was it not implemented as designed, what were the challenges to implementing it as designed, and how was it implemented?
- How does the program implementation vary by geography, culture, and time of year?
- Do perceptions of the quality of teachers differ among students, parents, teacher supervisors, and teachers? If yes, how?
The report also gives a detailed overview of the mixed-methods research design used to address these research questions.