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Enhancing girl education with social Interventions- Evaluation of The Discovery Project

The FCDO’s Girls’ Education Challenge (GEC) supports up to 1.5 million of the world’s most marginalised girls to complete a full cycle of either primary or secondary education. The Discovery Project 2 (DP-2) was a GEC-funded project, implemented by Impact (Ed) in northern Ghana (Northern Region), northern Nigeria (Kano State), and Kenya (Kajiado, Kiambu, Machakos, Nairobi, and Wajir counties).

Overview

The project aimed to increase girls’ learning outcomes in numeracy and English literacy. It works to enhance their self-esteem and self-efficacy, along with successful completion of their primary cycle and transition into junior secondary school.

The evaluation of the DP-2 project demonstrate the impact of the project on learning outcomes, self-efficacy and transition for the benefit of implementers, funders, and government partners in the three countries. The evaluation findings fed into on-going project operations, and future programmatic and funding decisions. 

The Challenge

Marginalised girls in Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria face major barriers to learning and transition, especially as they reach adolescence- towards the end of the primary cycle, transitioning to and through junior secondary school. Barriers are especially pronounced in nomadic, pastoral, and remote rural communities, where poverty is typically more extreme. Key transition points include the upper primary years, during which there is growing pressure on parents or guardians to put their children to work – inside and outside the home – and girls disproportionately are often pulled out of school for socio-cultural reasons. For those who complete primary, their mastery of basic knowledge and skills is often lacking and the transition to junior secondary is far from smooth. Space is limited, costs are more significant, and distance can be a major impediment.

The DP-2 project invested in a range of activities to holistically address key barriers to girls’ learning and transition. DP-2 provided educational media content, teacher training and ongoing mentoring to teachers, as well as supporting schools to set up small-size remedial classes for English and mathematics. DP-2 also supported schools to set up girls' and boys' clubs and trained club mentors to facilitate life skills sessions using the My Better World video series. Finally, DP-2 supported school and community leaders to address persistent barriers to girls' attendance, learning and transition through a community action planning process.

Our Approach

The evaluation of DP-2 used a rigorous mixed-methods theory-based impact evaluation approach to evaluate the project over its three-year period.

The quantitative impact evaluation relied on a quasi-experimental design called coarsened exact matching (CEM) with a difference-in-difference methodology to robustly quantify the impact of the project on various indicators including learning outcomes, transition, teaching quality, attendance, and self-efficacy.

This was complemented by multiple rounds of qualitative research that tracked a cohort of girls over three years as they transitioned from primary school to higher grades. This panel approach allowed gathering rich data on the girls' learning and home environment, as well as on how their learning outcomes, self-efficacy and life skills developed over time. The qualitative research was central to assessing the contributions of different DP-2 components to project outcomes.

Throughout the evaluation, we collected information about the implementation of the project to understand under which conditions DP-2 interventions work best. The evaluation also included an assessment of the sustainability of DP-2 at the school, community, and system level.

We administered 7,000 learning assessments and observed teaching in 360 classrooms across the three countries during each of the first two years of the evaluation. For this, OPM developed early grade reading and mathematics assessments (EGRA, EGMA), bespoke secondary grade learning assessments, and lesson observations focused on the specific teaching practices targeted by the project.

In 2020, the evaluation adapted successfully to the COVID-19 pandemic by adopting a remote data collection approach through quantitative and qualitative phone interviews.

Outcomes and wider impacts

The evaluation provided crucial evidence on DP-2's impact on learning outcomes, self-efficacy, transition and other outcomes to Impact(Ed) and FCDO, and to governments in the three countries who are adopting aspects of the DP-2 intervention for scale up.

The evaluation provided accountability of the project to its funders, provided evidence to inform project refinements during the project lifespan and informed the design of future interventions.

More broadly, the evaluation helped to build the evidence base around holistic interventions to improve learning outcomes for marginalised girls nationally and internationally.