Conditional Cash Transfers, paying low-income parents if their children attend school, have been successful at fighting poverty in Mexico and Brazil. Can a similar program work in Morocco? We are partnering with the Government of Morocco to test different ways of implementing their program. We hope to discover whether the program is successful in improving school enrolment, attendance, academic achievement, and household consumption.
Over the past decade many developing countries have expanded primary school access, energized by initiatives such as the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, which call for achieving universal primary education by 2015. However, improvements in school enrollment have not always translated into actual improvements in skills and learning for students. Many schools struggle with high dropout rates, possibly due to the direct costs of fees and materials and opportunity costs families face with fewer individuals in the workforce or providing help at home. Evidence from programs implemented in Mexico, Honduras, and Nicaragua, among others, suggest that a cash transfer program, conditional on school-aged children attending school, could help reduce dropout rates. However, there is no evidence to date on the degree of monitoring of school attendance that is necessary. Nor is there evidence on whether the conditionality itself is necessary to ensure increased attendance or whether the cash transfer increases income, indirectly increasing school attendance, even in the absence of this conditionality.
Context of the Evaluation:
The Kingdom of Morocco has successfully instituted a series of reforms in the educational system aimed at achieving universal primary school enrollment. From 1999 to 2006, the enrollment rate increased from 79% to 88% at the national level and from 58% to 87% in rural areas. According to recent surveys, however, dropout rates continue to be significant in primary levels. This is particularly true in the five poorest regions of Morocco where this study takes place, and in regions where the poverty rate is above 30%. In order to address these issues, the Higher Council of Education (CSE) together with the National Ministry of Education (MEN) are planning to launch a nation-wide conditional cash transfer (CCT) program to encourage parents to keep their children in school.
Details of the Intervention:
To help the CSE and MEN create an optimally designed program, J-PAL is helping evaluate a two-year pilot in five regions. A total of 320 school sectors are involved in the pilot. They were randomly assigned to three groups:
In 180 school sectors, the government is providing funding to the families conditional on school participation. The cash transfer is made every two months to parents of children attending primary school regularly. The monthly allowance increases with progress through school, starting from US$8 for each child in grade 1 and 2 to US$13 for children in grades 5 and 6. The transfer is maintained as long as the child's attendance rate is at least 80%.
In 80 school sectors, the government is providing funding to all families with children of primary school age, whether or not children attend school. The transfers amounts and frequency are similar to those in the conditional group.
Finally, families from 60 school sectors serve as a comparison group and do not benefit from cash transfers.
In order to compare various ways to monitor that the conditions of the transfers are respected, the 180 school sectors with the conditional program were further randomized into three groups:
In 60 sectors, the monitoring is “light”: the teacher records student attendance on the class register and these records are used to determine eligibility for the transfer.
In 60 sectors, the monitoring is of “medium intensity”: attendance registers kept by teachers are also used to determine eligibility, but teachers are threatened by audits. If a register is audited by a government inspector and a teacher is caught misreporting students’ absences in order to ensure their eligibility, the teacher can be sanctioned.
Finally, in 60 sectors, the monitoring is “intensive”: attendance is recorded daily with a digital fingerprint recognition time-clock.
Finally, in order to determine if the effectiveness of the transfers depends on the gender of the beneficiar (the child's mother or father), mothers receive the transfers in half of the school districts sampled for transfers and fathers receive the transfers in the other half. Outcomes of interest include student attendance, dropout rates, test scores and household welfare.