Building Resilient Education Systems: Cost-effective Mobile Tutoring in the Philippines and Beyond
IPA led the evaluation of the mEducation tutoring program in the Philippines, which resulted in a significant 40 percent increase in students' math skills at an approximate cost of USD $12 per child, making it a cost-effective solution.
Despite an increase in global school attendance rates, low levels of learning persist among many students worldwide.1 The urgent need for resilient education systems, particularly in countries where emergencies frequently disrupt education, has been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.2 Youth Impact's phone-based tutoring program, mEducation or ConnectEd, aims to improve math skills by delivering math problems via text and providing weekly 20-minute phone tutorials tailored to individual learning levels.
The program demonstrated positive outcomes when first implemented in Botswana. To examine its scalability, researchers conducted a randomized evaluation in five countries, with IPA leading the evaluation in the Philippines. The program was implemented across 3,492 students who were randomly assigned to one of three groups: a control group that did not receive the program, a group that received both phone calls and SMS, and an SMS-only group. Additionally, the program was implemented by both Philippines Department of Education (DepEd) or IPA to assess its feasibility for government implementation and evaluate whether the program delivery had an impact on its effectiveness.
The full mEducation program (SMS + phone calls) in the Philippines led to a significant 40 percent increase in children’s learning outcomes. The Philippines was among the countries with the biggest impact. The SMS-only intervention led to a 8 percent increase in learning outcomes, but only in the Philippines and Uganda, suggesting that text messages can be effective in contexts with the greatest need. Government-led implementation of mEducation was equally effective as NGO-led implementation. The program has an average cost of approximately $12 per child, yielding 3.4 learning-adjusted years of schooling (LAYS) per $100 spent, making it a cost-effective solution.
1 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Global education monitoring report, 2021/2: non-state actors in education: who chooses? who loses?. Paris, FR: UNESCO, 2021.
2 UNICEF Press Release, “Learning losses from COVID-19 could cost this generation of students close to $17 trillion in lifetime earnings,” UNICEF, December 6, 2021, https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/learning-losses-covid-19-could-cost-generation-students-close-17-trillion-lifetime.