MineduLAB is an innovation lab for education policy housed within the government of Peru. The lab pilots and evaluates the effectiveness of low-cost education innovations. Its ultimate goal is to equip the Ministry of Education to use evidence to improve education outcomes throughout the country.

MineduLAB’s close ties with academia are a critical component of its success. The collaborative MineduLAB process combines researchers’ expertise with the operational experience and political priorities of policymakers. This process ensures that innovations tested before scale-up are informed by existing rigorous evidence and cutting-edge research on education and behavioral economics.

The MineduLAB team of four monitoring and evaluation professionals is embedded within the Ministry of Education (Minedu) Secretariat of Strategic Planning (SPE). For each innovation, the team follows the following policy cycle:

MineduLAB Policy Cycle
 

Minedulab policy cycle infographic
 

What Innovations Have Been Tested?

 

Nudging School Managers through Text Message Alerts  

Researchers: Andrew Dustan (Vanderbilt University), Stanislao Maldonado (Universidad del Rosario), Juan Manual Hernández-Agramonte (IPA)

As part of its reform efforts, the Ministry of Education is dedicating greater resources to improving educational infrastructure. One such reform project provides funding to schools for maintenance of school facilities. However, the project has suffered from insufficient use of funds and a lack of reporting on how funds were spent.

Researchers designed and evaluated an innovative text message campaign that “nudged” school managers, via text message alerts, to use allocated funds for maintenance of school facilities. Researchers found that the campaign increased adherence to the program and was cost-effective. In response, the agency responsible for the program has scaled it up at a national level, reaching 24,000 schools nationwide.

 

Choosing a Better Future: The Impact of Information Provision on Human Capital Accumulation and Child Labor in Peru

Researchers: Francisco Gallego (Pontíficia Universidad Católica de Chile), Oswaldo Molina (Universidad del Pacifico), Christopher Neilson (Princeton University)

IPA and J-PAL worked with researchers and the Ministry of Education to evaluate at scale two low-cost ways of providing relevant information to help students and their families make more informed decisions. Using a series of telenovela-style videos screened as part of the curriculum in schools as well as through an interactive tablet app, the research project evaluated how information provided at different ages could shape human capital decisions.

Results suggest that the programs were effective at changing educational plans and lowering dropout rates, while significant effects on child labor were mixed. The policy has now been adopted by the government and scaled up to 100 percent of public schools with full class days.

 

Growth Mindset: Providing Information to Secondary School Students About How Effort Can Develop Intelligence

Researchers: Renos Vakis (World Bank), Ingo Outes (University of Oxford), Alan Sanchez (GRADE)

Recent psychology studies have demonstrated that short term psycho-social interventions can deliver significant improvements in student learning. These programs aim to influence students’ motivation and perseverance and help students develop a “growth mindset”—the understanding that consistent practice and effort can increase intelligence. Researchers worked with the government to evaluate a program called Expand Your Mind!, which consisted of two learning sessions aimed at instilling a growth mindset in students.

The study found that Expand Your Mind! increased test scores on a yearly standardized exam in mathematics by 3.5 points (5.5 percentage points of the grade’s standard deviation), and a higher number of students reached the two highest levels of mathematics achievement as measured by the exam. However, the sessions did not have a significant impact on reading comprehension. The program was cost-effective at $0.65/student.

 

Motivating Teachers with Weekly SMS Messages

Researchers: Renos Vakis (World Bank), Maria Gabriela Farfan (World Bank)

This program, designed by the Ministry’s General Directorate of Teacher Development was a text message campaign with informative and motivational text messages designed to motivate and encourage teachers. Researchers randomly assigned teachers at one group of schools to receive weekly SMS messages and another comparison group to receive a smaller set of three messages with a signature from the Minister.

Results suggest that the SMS campaign increased teachers’ sense of closeness to Minedu, which in turn may help increase their motivation. In addition, the teachers who received the text campaign showed a higher level of satisfaction with the SMS received than the teachers in the comparison group. Overall, the results suggest that teachers value informative and motivational messages from the Ministry.

 

Providing Information Booklets to Parents and School Directors and Teachers

Researchers: Francisco Gallego (Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile), Christopher Neilson (Princeton University)

Providing information about schools’ relative performance may be a way to spur behavior change. This program gave public school directors, teachers, and parents booklets containing comparative information on results of similar schools on Peru’s national standardized test. Researchers compared students at schools in Lima’s metropolitan area that received the booklets to those at schools that served as a comparison group.

After seven months, no significant difference in math scores and reading comprehension was found between the groups. Qualitative analysis done to monitor the innovation’s implementation suggests that delivering the information booklets through school directors was not the most effective way to make information accessible to parents. It is also possible that the content of the booklets was too complex, or that the information was not sufficient to spur action from parents to demand school improvements.

 

Using Email Messages to Increase Visibility of Teacher Absenteeism’s Frequency and Costs

Researchers: Renos Vakis (World Bank), Simon Ruda (Behavioural Insights Team), Stewart Kettle (Behavioural Insights Team)

Teacher absenteeism can have negative consequences on student learning. This program aimed to use email messages with content based on behavioral principles to influence teacher absenteeism and tardiness. Two types of messages were sent to school directors and teachers: an email with a pro-social message, and one with social norm message. A comparison group received neither message.

Directors who received the social norm message increased their attendance by 3.7 percentage points. However, neither email had an impact on teacher attendance. Fewer that 20 percent of recipients opened the emails. This low uptake, combined with the fact that fewer than half of teachers and directors at the time of the study use email at all, suggests that email may not yet be an effective channel for communication in this context.

 

Understanding Peer Effects within High-Performing Schools

Researcher: Román Andrés Zárate (MIT)

Interaction with peers can influence students’ skills and behavior. This evaluation used students’ social and academic abilities for the allocation to dorms within High-Performing Schools (COAR) in Peru. The intervention randomly varied the characteristics of neighbors in the dorms. First, students could have less or more sociable neighbors, measured by their position in the school’s friendship network. Second, they could have lower- or higher-achieving neighbors, classified by their score in the admission test. 

The results show that while more sociable neighbors increase the social skills of their peers, higher-achieving neighbors do not improve their academic performance. The positive effect on social skills was stronger for the less sociable students and driven by the social support from their neighbors and changes in the self-confidence in their social abilities. On the other hand, higher-achieving neighbors do not improve academic performance. Furthermore, lower-achieving students paired with higher-achieving peers report lower scores in both mathematics and reading comprehension. A diminished self-confidence in their academic abilities explains this adverse effect. 

Overall, while the existing literature and most education policies have focused on peers’ academic achievement, this evaluation shows that in the context of High-Performing schools in Peru, the role of sociable peers is more important to improve students’ outcomes.

 

Encouraging Teacher Attendance with Non-Monetary Recognition

Researchers: Peter Bergman (Columbia University), Micaela Sviatschi (Columbia University), Josefa Aguirre (Columbia University)

This intervention, part of the Ministry’s “Semáforo Escuela” program meant to improve data collection and monitoring from schools, delivers non-monetary rewards to teachers and directors who achieved a 100% of attendance combined according to Semáforo Escuela. The rewards given consisted of either congratulations letters (private recognition) or banners (public recognition).

The were no significant effects on student achievement or student dropout, but there was a significant positive effect on director’s satisfaction. There was no impact found on teacher and director presence, student attendance, or teacher satisfaction. Results suggest that these recognitions were an effective form of feedback for directors.

 

Complementing “Bono Escuela” Monetary Incentives with Non-Monetary Certificates

Researchers: Peter Bergman (Columbia University), Micaela Sviatschi (Columbia University), Josefa Aguirre (Columbia University)

“Bono Escuela” is a monetary incentive given to top-performing schools in Peru. In light of evidence that non-monetary incentives can also change behavior, this intervention provided a certificate for teachers and directors from the Ministry of Education in addition to the monetary incentive, aiming enhance their motivation and effort.

The non-monetary incentive had no significant impact on student academic achievement, student dropout, or student attendance. This suggests that the non-monetary recognitions tested were not sufficient to produce significant impacts, and that other more intensive variants of non-monetary incentives should be evaluated.

 

Innovations with ongoing or future scheduled evaluations

 

Information campaigns through text messages to parents 

Researchers: Andrew Dustan (Vanderbilt University), Stanislao Maldonado (Universidad del Rosario), Juan Manual Hernández-Agramonte (IPA)

The goal of this intervention is to improve second-grade students’ reading and writing outcomes by encouraging parents to invest more time in their children’s education. The program will provide information to parents through text messages on best practices of parents’ time investment in their children. The text messages are designed to address competing demands on parents’ attention, due in part to everyday time-consuming chores and obligations, that make important investments in children difficult to achieve.

Promoting talent by sending information to high-performing students 

Researcher: Christopher Neilson (Princeton University)

This intervention provides informational and motivational letters to talented secondary school students in order to encourage them to remain in school and maintain their academic achievement. Students and their parents may not have an accurate perception of their academic performance, and providing more information to high-performing students’ families may in turn spur increased investment in their educations. Researchers are comparing different combinations of letters that offer either congratulation and motivation, information about students’ performance in the prior academic year compared to their peers, or information about scholarship eligibility.

Implementing a cost-effective bilingual mathematics curriculum 

Researchers: Andrew Dustan (Vanderbilt University), Stanislao Maldonado (Universidad del Rosario), Juan Manual Hernández-Agramonte (IPA)

This project aims to produce rigorous evidence on how to implement a cost-effective program reducing the learning gap between indigenous and non-indigenous children in mathematics. The project team will develop, pilot, and evaluate the application of an intercultural and bilingual radio-interactive preschool math curriculum for indigenous populations that also includes teacher training. The program adapts the “Tikichuela, Mathematics in my School" curriculum evaluated in Paraguay (which had positive effects on math learning among bilingual populations) to the Peruvian indigenous context, adding elements of the original native culture.

Addressing the gender gap in STEM careers

Researchers: Andrew Dustan (Vanderbilt University), Stanislao Maldonado (Universidad del Rosario), Juan Manual Hernández-Agramonte (IPA)

This program aims to address constraints limiting the participation of girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers through audiovisual aids and information technologies. Three different programs under evaluation will provide information related to girls’ aspirations and economic returns of STEM careers, addressing stereotypes about girls’ performance in STEM, and incentivizing female application to STEM careers. Researchers will evaluate the effect of the programs on academic achievement in STEM-related subjects.

Promoting self-control techniques through tutoring sessions to encourage better study methods and increase academic achievement 

Researchers: Ingo Outes (University of Oxford), Alan Sanchez (GRADE)

This program is designed to address procrastination and help students achieve improve their academic performance through better self-control. The intervention consists of three tutoring sessions for students in the second year of secondary school. The sessions aim to foster self-control techniques to help students remember their long-term goals and develop strategies to shift their behavior when they are aware they are procrastinating.

 
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