Panel Paper: Community Engagement in Schools: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Pakistan

Saturday, November 9, 2019
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Governor's Square 12 (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Salman Asim, World Bank and Amina Riaz, University of Chicago

We present findings from a field experiment in rural Sindh, Pakistan, where half of school-age children (6-10 years) are out of school. This paper presents results of testing alternative approaches to strengthen engagement of communities with schools: face-to-face dialogue at externally-facilitated community meetings; and ongoing, anonymous dialogue via text messages.

The interventions increased communities’ interest in education as measured through an improvement in the number of functioning schools and, in the case of the text message treatment, substantial gains in retention of students in Grades 2, 3 and 4. On the supply side, schools were able to significantly increase staffing and reduce the share of one-teacher schools; however, teacher absenteeism increased, and there was no substantial impact on basic school infrastructure. An additional reform to an existing institution, elections and capacity building for school committees, was implemented in a cross-over experimental design; the intervention undermined the participation of communities in meetings and reduced impacts on all indicators except new admissions and availability of toilets in schools.

Overall, we find no evidence of impact on measured test scores for any intervention. The findings suggest that community engagement can achieve some impacts on school access and quality, but even when communities are engaged with schools, there is a limit to what they can do to fill in the administrative gaps left by the state.