Technology, Monitoring and Teacher Support in Niger

Lead Research Organisation: Tufts University
Department Name: Economics


Despite improvements in school enrolment over the past 20 years, 757 million adults worldwide are still unable to read and write in any language (UNESCO 2015). In Niger, the subject of this study, less than 30% of the population is considered to be literate (IMF 2013).
While a substantial body of research has focused on increasing school participation, there is still considerable debate about how to improve learning in a cost-effective way. One constraint that has consistently emerged is teacher absenteeism: In West Africa, teacher absenteeism rates range between 27-40% (TI 2013). Empirical research in economics has found that teacher monitoring can lead to improvements in teacher attendance, with mixed results on learning (Guerrero et al 2013, Duflo et al 2012, Cilliers et al 2014). Some governments have shifted to community teachers, who are hired on short-term contracts renewable upon performance. Yet oversight remains a challenge, especially in countries with high transport costs and weak institutions. In a previous adult education program in Niger, community teachers missed 1/3 of their classes (Aker et al 2016).
The growth of mobile phone technology throughout sub-Saharan Africa has the potential to affect the relationships between teachers, communities and education service providers in remote rural areas. By allowing governments and NGOs to communicate with remote areas on a regular basis, mobile phones can improve monitoring of teachers' attendance. Mobile phones can also allow the community to provide feedback to education providers, thereby increasing community engagement. And finally, mobile phones could be used to provide more frequent "long distance" pedagogical support to teachers.
Our research team ran a randomized evaluation in Niger between 2014-2016, which showed that a mobile phone monitoring intervention in the context of an adult education program - whereby teachers, students and village chiefs were called on a weekly basis - significantly improved students' test scores (Aker et al 2016). Although the intervention did not include financial incentives for teachers, mobile monitoring increased teachers' attendance and motivation. At the same time, teachers often asked for pedagogical support, which the monitoring team was unable to provide.
This proposal builds upon this initial research in five ways. First, it will expand the program to more villages in order to test the intervention at a larger scale. Second, the research will test different types of mobile monitoring - i.e., calling the teacher only, as compared with calling the teacher, the village chief and students - to determine which approach is the most effective in increasing teacher performance and learning. Third, the program will assess the potential for using mobile phones to provide pedagogical support to teachers. Fourth, our research will seek to understand how education and technology affect intra-village dynamics, as well as the dynamics between the teacher, community and education service providers. And finally, these interventions will be piloted in a small number of primary schools in order to understand whether the dynamics of teacher monitoring and support are different in a primary school setting and with governmental institutions.
This research contributes to the existing literature in several ways. First, the intervention uses a low-cost technology that does not require specialized software. It also builds upon existing research on teacher performance by including pedagogical support and omitting the financial incentive. Finally, our research will focus on adult education programs, a highly neglected entry point for education interventions.
This research will be achieved through a unique collaboration between governmental, non-governmental, university and research firm partners in Niger, the US and Europe.

Planned Impact

There are two primary direct beneficiaries of this research: adult education students and teachers in Niger. The adult education program will directly target 15,000 non-literate adults, allowing them to acquire basic literacy and numeracy skills. 300 adult literacy teachers will receive monitoring or pedagogical support (or both), potentially strengthening their labor market skills. The program will also target 35 primary school teachers in a pilot.
Indirect beneficiaries are other household members, as having a literate adult can improve household socio-economic outcomes. Other indirect beneficaries are non-benficiary households in the villages, who may benefit from having a more highly educated population and a more highly skilled teacher. Additional indirect beneficiaries are village chiefs, who will be participating in the mobile monitoring component and thus more informed of local activities.
There are six sets of stakeholders who will also benefit. The first is CRS, the primary implementing partner. This research will inform CRS about the effectiveness of its adult education program, as well as the impact of mobile monitoring and technical support on learning. Since CRS has programs in over 80 countries and several adult education programs in West Africa, it is likely that it will replicate the approach in other countries if successful. CRS has also expressed interest in testing these approaches with field agents and service providers in other sectors.
The second stakeholder is the Nigerien government, particularly the Ministries of Non-Formal and Primary Education (IRP). Cost-effective adult education and pedagogical support are priorities for the government, yet the ministries face challenges in managing and providing technical support to teachers in remote rural areas. The ministries will use the results from this research to determine whether mobile monitoring and pedagogy should be integrated into their curricula. As the adult education methodology in Niger is similar to other programs in francophone West Africa, this research could benefit programs in those countries.
A third stakeholder is the University of Abdoul Moumouni, particularly the collaborating professor (Dr. Malam) and graduate students. Dr. Malam will co-author one of the academic papers, and we will jointly conduct impact evaluation workshops for UAM faculty and students. Project data will also be available to graduate students for their theses.
A fourth set of stakeholders is donors, international organizations and private sector enterprises interested in learning about technology-related adult and non-formal education programs, such as USAID, DFID, UNESCO, the World Bank and VotoMobile.
A fifth stakeholder is Sahel Consulting, the team's data collection partner. Sahel will be involved in all aspects of planning and implementing the surveys, as well as participate in the UAM impact evaluation workshops and exchange visits, thereby increasing their capacity to conduct impact evaluations within Niger for other organizations.
A final set of stakeholders is researchers in the fields of economics, international education and information technology. This research will provide additional evidence on the impacts of information technology on learning and welfare and hopefully stimulate further research in this area.
Engagement and impact with these groups will take place through our written project outputs (papers, policy briefs), blog posts, annual stakeholder meetings, impact evaluation workshops, final policy conference, dissemination workshops with teachers and village chiefs, conference presentations, film and exchange visits. These activities are described in more detail in the "Pathways to Impact" document. The first stakeholder workshop in Niger will include the PI, CRS, MNFE, Sahel and UAM, and will review the research questions, research design and data collection plan, set out the work plan and identify roles.


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Description Making simple telephone calls to teachers, principals and PTA members once a week during the school year can increase teacher and school principal attendance in the short-term. However, it does not have an impact on student learning in the first two years, for several reasons. First, the magnitude of the attendance results - while statistically significant - are not large. Second, because measuring learning outcomes is difficult. And third, because even if attendance increases, teachers may face constraints to the quality of their teaching. At the same time, the calls did seem to increase teachers' motivation and sense of appreciation, and also increased parents' involvement in school and in their children's learning.
Exploitation Route This could potentially be used and tried by other Ministries of Primary Education in other countries, as well as other sectors.
Sectors Education,Government, Democracy and Justice

Description Our preliminary findings have been shared with the Ministry of Primary Education, the data collection team in Niger (Sahel Consulting), JPAL at MIT and with PhD students and professors at Tufts. We shared the short-term impacts of the program on attendance, and discussed some of the potential challenges to improving educational outcomes.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Education
Impact Types Economic,Policy & public services

Description Co-wrote an article for the Impact Initiative Impact Story
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
Description Hitachi Center
Amount $10,000 (USD)
Organisation Tufts University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United States
Start 03/2018 
End 06/2019
Title Attendance registries 
Description Taking attendance is a challenge in most countries, and is even more challenging without attendance records. We worked with the Ministry to develop attendance books, which are large books with removable pages that allow the school director to take attendance. We then printed this books. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The directors have noted that this greatly facilitates their work, and the teachers have noticed this. 
Title Attendance dataset 
Description The dataset is a weekly dataset of teacher attendance between November and now for all teachers in 84 primary schools. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact We are currently analyzing the data, there are no impacts as of yet. 
Title Household Survey of Parents with Children in Primary School 
Description This is a two-year panel survey between 2019 and 2020, which surveys parents of children in primary schools where the calling intervention has taken place. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The data are being used to analyze the impact of the intervention 
Title Student EGRA and EGMA Test Scores in Niger 
Description This is a dataset of the test scores of approximately 1300 school-aged children in 2019 and 2020 who participated in the intervention of calling teachers. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The data are currently being used to measure the impact of the intervention on student learning. 
Description Sahel Consulting 
Organisation Sahel Consulting Agriculture & Nutrition
Country Nigeria 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Provided material and capacity-building support
Collaborator Contribution Fully participated in research, worked with local partners, helped to organize and implement research and policy conference.
Impact Completed all surveys Completed all data Produced policy conference Produced video
Start Year 2014
Description University partnership 
Organisation Abdou Moumouni University
Country Niger 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We provided training in impact evaluation and data to the university professors and students.
Collaborator Contribution Attended the training, provided feedback on research and participated in policy conference.
Impact Impact evaluation workshop Shared data Policy conference
Start Year 2016
Description Meetings with School Directors and Ministries 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact We presented the results of the first year of the research to the Ministry and the school directors.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
Description Presentation of preliminary results to academic seminar at Tufts 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The presentation was to present the preliminary results of the research on the activities under this grant, and to get feedback.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2020
Description Presentation to Ministry of Education 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The intended purpose was to understand the Ministry's constraints, present the results of previous research and discuss possibilities for collaboration with the Ministry in the future.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018