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NEW RESEARCH SHOWS IMPACT OF GHANA’S FIRST INTERACTIVE DISTANCE LEARNING EDUCATION PROGRAMME

Pupils benefiting from MGCubed programme reading more words more minute and are one year ahead of their peers in maths tests

New research to be published shows the extensive impact an innovative distance-learning programme is having on the educational attainment and life chances of marginalised girls and boys in Ghana.

Making Ghanaian Girls Great! (MGCubed), a three-year pilot project funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) and run by the Varkey Foundation, is the first project in the country to use interactive distance learning technology to deliver Maths and English lessons daily to more than 10,000 girls – and boys – in 72 government schools in some of the most deprived communities.

The schools – in Volta (Nkwanta South and Kadjebi districts) and Greater Accra (Ada East, Ada West, Ningo Prampram and Shai Osu-Doku districts) – are equipped with solar panels and a satellite connection in order to link with live broadcasts of lessons from highly-qualified teachers, using internationally-approved teaching methods, from a studio in Accra.

Independent evaluation of MGCubed conducted by Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), to be unveiled at a major education conference in Zambia later today, shows the model has had a significant impact on increasing literacy and numeracy skills among marginalised girls.

·      In literacy tests, MGCubed students were able to read between 3.21-3.74 more words per minute than those in regular classes; and

·      in numeracy tests MGCubed teaching has been found to increase average scores by the equivalent of one school year.

In addition to the in-school classes, MGCubed delivers an after-school girls’ club called ‘Wonder Women’ to up to 50 girls per school, including out-of-school girls. The sessions cover topics such as early pregnancy, early marriage, reproductive health, financial literacy, entrepreneurship, career guidance and the environment as well as introducing girls to adult role models. The goal is to encourage girls to stay in or return to school, and  raise their aspirations for their futures.

MGCubed facilitators – either female teaching staff already at the schools, or female volunteers from the community – receive training in best-practice pedagogy to enable them to facilitate the in-school distance learning lessons and the after-school lessons, providing a critical link back into the communities to help reinforce the positive attitudinal changes towards girls’ education that the intervention hopes to achieve.

Internal research conducted by the Varkey Foundation, also to be published for the first time today, shows that, in addition to the literacy and numeracy improvements:

·      Teachers are more motivated to do their job. Teacher motivation is high, as evidenced by low absenteeism – the rate of teacher absenteeism in MGCubed classes was found to be just 0.5% over the whole project.

·      The project is correlated with improved class attendance. Data collected by staff until June 2016 indicates that over the course of the project, average attendance in MGCubed classrooms increased by nearly 7%.

·      MGCubed is having a spillover effect on classroom instruction. MGCubed facilitators do not restrict their improved knowledge and skills to the MGCubed classrooms, but have been found to employ MGCubed strategies in “regular” classes.  Over three-quarters of facilitators interviewed stated that they used starter activities and nearly three-quarters group work.

·      MGCubed has increased participation and motivation in school, beyond its principal pupil beneficiaries. In in-depth interviews with girls, nearly 70% of respondents noted a change in the way the MGCubed facilitator teaches in a non-MGCubed class. Key changes include a reduction in caning, with a third of girls voluntarily reporting that teachers in MGCubed classes did not use the cane.  Other reported changes include teachers “taking their time” or being more patient (23%). Over 40% of pupils cited the use of group work/pair work/”joining in” activities as their favourite aspect of the project because they were able to learn from peers and “discuss freely” rather than “feel shy”. Of the 230 feedback surveys in which facilitators were recorded as saying they used MGCubed techniques in their classrooms, 100% made an explicit reference to pupils in their classes being more engaged, performing better, and working well as a group.

·      MGCubed has raised levels of self-esteem, with an increase in girls who volunteer for leadership positions, and a 14% increase in girls who volunteer to answer questions during MGCubed lessons.

The research findings will be announced today by Leonora Dowley, the Varkey Foundation’s Country Director for Ghana, at the Forum for African Women Educationalists 2017 conference in Lusaka, Zambia.

Leonora Dowley said: “This new research shows MGCubed’s interactive distance learning model has been incredibly effective at increasing literacy and numeracy skills for disadvantaged girls and boys. 

“In addition, it is improving girls’ life chances by combatting deep-seated cultural values about girls and their educational potential.

“The results are also testament to the efforts of the Ghana Education Service, including its Girls’ Education Unit, who have worked closely with the Varkey Foundation to design the programme and monitor activity in schools.”


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