Education workshop

IGC Mozambique jointly hosted with the Ministry of Education, a workshop on evidence-based policymaking in education, with a focus on the case of Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs).

This workshop featured an opening speech by Dr Ivaldo Quincardete (National Director for Secondary Education, Ministry of Education), as well as a series of presentations by Dr Laura Poswell (Executive Director, JPAL Africa) on lessons from JPAL on successful partnerships for evidence-based policymaking, Dr Damien De Walque on a cross-country study of cash transfers and educational outcomes as well as the results from a pilot study funded by the IGC on reducing female drop-out rates in Mozambique, and a presentation by Dr Yolanda Sitoe on the preliminary evidence on constraints to skills, and job opportunities for young women, adolescent girls and marginalised youth in Mozambique. The detailed programme is included in the listed documents to the right.

Ivaldo Quincardete, the National Director of Secondary Education at the Ministry of Education of Mozambique, delivered the opening speech, emphasising the Mozambican Government’s strong belief in the right to education for all its citizens. He highlighted that the government is working to promote the continued development of education in cooperation with its partners. The gender aspect is of prime importance, which is reflected in the government´s Strategic Plan for Education striving for gender equality and a reduction in the number of female drop-outs. Dr. Quincardete mentioned existing challenges and stated that the workshop is a good example of the continued collaboration between the government and its partners to overcome such challenges and promote quality education for all Mozambicans.

Laura Poswell, the Executive Director of JPAL South Africa, presented some lessons on successful partnerships for evidence-based policymaking. She explained that there are various strategies that can be used to increase secondary school attendance, for example by addressing health issues that prevent school attendance or reducing the costs of schooling. The challenge is to identify the most effective way to do so. Randomized evaluations help as they can establish a credible comparison between the outcomes of interventions and what would have happened in the counterfactual situation without them.

Dr. Poswell spoke about CCT programmes and their ability to break short-term liquidity constraints and help long-term savings. The aim of CCTs is to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty through encouraging investments in education and health. CCT programs have been implemented in over 30 countries and impact evaluations of these programmes have consistently generated evidence of increased school attendance. The Progresa program in Mexico was cited as an important example, not only for being one of the first large-scale CCT programs but also for having set a precedence for integrating rigorous impact evaluation into the programme design right from the outset. Without this feature, which allowed the effective communication of credible results, the expansion of the program until today would have been unlikely. The evaluations have shown that Progresa has increased school attendance, but no significant impacts have been found on learning outcomes.

The design of CCT programs has remained remarkably stable, considering that they have been implemented in many different countries over the past two decades. Recent years have seen various Randomized Control Trials (RCTs) to test the effect of changes in the timing and size of the transfers. In Colombia, for instance, it was found that reducing the monthly transfer by 30% did not result in lower attendance. Another question is whether the conditionality aspect of CCTs is essential for their effectiveness. The first study to test this was done in Malawi and showed that conditional transfers led to more significant improvements in enrolment, attendance and learning outcomes than unconditional transfers. Nevertheless, Dr. Poswell acknowledged that this is just one example and that the results of later studies on the importance of conditionality are mixed.

Damien de Walque (World Bank) presented a cross-country review on cash transfers and educational outcomes. He argued that promoting gender equality by closing the education gap in Mozambique would increase the GDP per capita growth rate by 0.3 percentage points. He pointed out that both CCTs and UCTs (Unconditional Cash Transfers) have led to improvements in enrolment and attendance. The effect sizes are larger for CCTs in comparison with UCTs, although the difference is not statistically significant. However, when looking only at CCTs with effective monitoring mechanisms and penalties for non-compliance, the effects are substantially larger than for UCTs.

A further element in this discussion is the effect of programs on the enrolment of ´marginal´ children. Dr. de Walque explained that parents are already more likely to make educational investments in high ability children, and that conditionality pushes parents to enrol the ‘marginal child’, namely girls, young children and low ability children. He went on to discuss the effects of varying the recipient of the transfer, presenting evidence that CCTs given to women tend to produce better educational outcomes, while CCTs given to fathers lead to better nutritional outcomes and increased housing investments.  Finally, there is a debate on whether it is better to provide incentives to the parents or to adolescents, given that the views of parents and children on optimal investments in human capital may not align. Although most studies have not obtained conclusive results on this matter, evidence from Brazil does show that parents attach value to the monitoring feature of CCTs, which serves to reduce information asymmetries between parent and child.

Damien de Walque (World Bank) gave a second presentation on a proposed Randomized Control Trial (RCT) to provide rigorous evidence specific to Mozambique on several unanswered questions. He started out by stating that Mozambique has traditionally suffered from low levels of human capital, and arguing that the existing body of international evidence on the positive impact of CCTs suggests that this could potentially be a beneficial road for Mozambique to follow.

The proposed RCT would seek to determine whether it is optimal to provide financial incentives to parents or to provide incentives to adolescent girls in the form of tokens that can be used to purchase a specific set of school-related items. The evidence presented from Brazil of parents attaching value to the monitoring feature of CCTs implies that simply providing information to parents on children´s school attendance could by itself raise attendance. A third treatment arm in the RCT would investigate this hypothesis by giving out certificates of exemplary attendance.

Yolanda Sitoe (DFID) presented preliminary evidence from qualitative research on the constraints to benefiting from skills and jobs opportunities facing young women, adolescent girls and marginalized youth in Mozambique. The evidence so far does not point at a systematic pattern of gender-related discrimination regarding access to vocational training or jobs. However, the responses do hint at the important role of gender roles in influencing adolescents´ occupational choices.

It was found that youth generally recognize the value of skills training, but that the main constraints faced by adolescents in accessing training opportunities are the lack of information and the lack of financial resources. Professional training institutes are mostly unknown among this group. Looking at gender-specific issues, the current range of professional training programs is largely focused on jobs that are traditionally considered as masculine. Such gender stereotypes act as a further constraint to adolescent women in accessing training opportunities.

In the debate that followed the presentations, some of the participants raised doubts on the feasibility of introducing Conditional Cash Transfers in Mozambique, citing sociocultural and financial sustainability concerns. Laura Poswell recognized that there are many different factors at play in explaining the school attendance of girls and that those factors also differ across countries. She cited one example where it was found that intestinal parasites leading to health problems were the binding constraint on school attendance, so that deworming pills turned out to be the most effective intervention for raising attendance rates. She therefore mentioned the need to understand the specific obstacles in each case, although stressing at the same time that CCTs have been found to improve attendance across highly diverse countries and contexts.

Damien de Walque echoed her comments, recognizing that any CCT has to be tailored to the local context and that these programs should not be seen as substitutes for civic education campaigns to convince people of the importance of schooling. Regarding the financial sustainability, the panel members stressed the importance of identifying interventions that are low-cost yet highly effective.

Ivaldo Quincardete closed the workshop, by thanking the presenters for sharing the interesting experiences of other countries. The issue of raising female school attendance is of great concern to the government, and the Ministry of Education will be looking forward to evidence specific to Mozambique and to continue the discussions on this important topic.