Learning using low-tech when school’s out

Autor(es): Angrist, Noam; Bergman, Peter; Matsheng, Moitshepi

Date: 2021

Pages: 61 p.


School closures occurred extensively during the COVID-19 pandemic, and occur in other settings, such as teacher strikes and natural disasters. The cost of school closures has been shown to be substantial, particularly for households of lower socioeconomic status, however, little evidence exists on how to mitigate these learning losses. This paper provides some of the first experimental evidence on strategies to support learning when schools close. We conduct a large-scale randomized trial testing two low-technology interventions – SMS messages and phone calls – with parents to support their child in Botswana. The combined treatment improves learning by 0.12 standard deviations, which translates to 0.89 standard deviations of learning per $100 USD, ranking among the most cost-effective interventions to improve learning. We develop remote assessment innovations, which show robust learning outcomes. Our findings have immediate policy relevance and long-run implications for the role of technology and parents to support education provision during school disruptions.

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