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Mali Speed School Program: Long term impact (Dillon et al. 2018)

Absence of conflict of interest.

Citation

Dillon, A., Porreca, E., & Rosati, F. (2018). Mali Speed School Program: Long term impact. Understanding Children's Work (UCW) Working Paper Series. Rome, Italy: UCW

Highlights

  • The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Mali Speed School Program on child labor and education outcomes.
  • The study used a randomized controlled trial to compare outcomes between children who participated in the Mali Speed School Program with children who did not. Using survey data, the authors conducted difference-in-differences models to examine long-term program outcomes between the groups.
  • The study found that the percentage of children who worked in agriculture in the last seven days or wage employment in the previous 12 months was significantly lower in the treatment group than the control group. The study also found that the percentage of children enrolled in school five years after program implementation was significantly higher in the treatment group than the control group.
  • The quality of the causal evidence presented in this study is moderate because, although it was based on a randomized controlled trial with high attrition, the authors demonstrated that the treatment and control groups were similar before the intervention. This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the Mali Speed School Program, but other factors might also have contributed.

Features of the Intervention

The Mali Speed School Program was designed to give children who had been kept out of school by poverty or conflict the necessary skills to pass an entrance exam so they could be integrated back into the public school system. The program offered an accelerated, 10-month curriculum to prepare the children for school entry. The program included a variety of curriculum approaches: reading and writing in the children’s native language, reading and writing in French, and play- and activity-based learning. The community was involved through a Management Committee, which advocated for education by encouraging attendance and working with parents. Speed School staff also coordinated with the public school system to ensure non-overlapping or competing instruction and to inform public school teachers about the children coming from the program. Children 8-12 years of age and not currently in school were eligible for the program, which operated in the southern Koulikoro and Sikasso regions in Mali.

Features of the Study

The study was a randomized controlled trial in which 77 villages were randomly assigned to either the treatment (46 villages) or the control group (31 villages). Within the treatment villages, children were randomly assigned to the treatment or control group. The treatment group consisted of children who were not enrolled in school, who participated in the Mali Speed School Program, and lived in a treatment village (429 children). The control group consisted of children who were not enrolled in school, who did not participate in the Mali Speed School Program, and resided in a treatment village (522 children). Data sources included a baseline survey (September 2012) and a follow-up survey (May 2017). At the time of the 2017 follow-up survey, there were 257 children in the treatment group and 283 in the control group. The authors estimated long-term impacts of the program using difference-in-differences models with controls for child sex and age. Outcomes included children’s labor and hours worked in the last seven days in any economic work, agriculture, or household chores; children’s work in last 12 months in wage employment; and school enrollment five years after the implementation of the program.

Findings

Working children/Child labor

  • The study found that the percentage of children who participated in wage employment in the previous 12 months was significantly lower in the treatment group compared to the control group (8 percentage points).
  • The study also found that the percentage of children who worked in agriculture in the last seven days was significantly lower in the treatment group compared to the control group (18 percentage points).
  • The study found no significant differences in the proportions of treatment and control group children who participated in economic work or household chores or the hours worked in economic work, agriculture, or household chores in the previous seven days.

 

Education (School participation/enrollment)

  • The percentage of treatment children enrolled in school five years after the implementation of the program was 20 percentage points higher than control group children; this difference was statistically significant.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

While the study was a randomized controlled trial, it had a high rate of attrition. In cases of high attrition, a study can receive a moderate causal evidence rating if the analysis controls for possible differences in background characteristics of the analytic treatment and control groups. The authors established baseline equivalency for individual and household-level characteristics and controlled for child sex and age in the statistical models.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of the causal evidence presented in this study is moderate because, although it was based on a randomized controlled trial with high attrition, the authors demonstrated that the treatment and control groups were similar before the intervention. This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the Mali Speed School Program, but other factors might also have contributed.

Reviewed by CLEAR

May 2021

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