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Sydney South NSW 1235, Level 11, 227 Elizabeth Street Sydney NSW 2000

Telephone: 1800 812 164

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University study links Opportunity’s School Improvement Loans with improved educational outcomes

By Opportunity International Australia

Students sits at desk and study at a school in Nagpur, India.
Students at a school in Nagpur, India. With the assistance of School Improvement Loans, schools can buy textbooks, build toilet blocks, purchase materials, and invest in teacher salaries. © Kim Landy

A recent study conducted by the University of Chicago’s Center for RISC in partnership with Opportunity, shows the importance of Opportunity’s EduFinance Program to improve educational outcomes for children.

“This is the first evidence we have that the EduFinance program is not only increasing access to education but is also improving the quality of education as well,” said Andrew McCusker, Head of EduFinance.  

For people living in poverty, a quality education can be difficult for many families to access. Government schools are often low-cost or free, but many suffer from overcrowding, underfunding, chronic teacher absenteeism, strikes or bureaucracy issues that challenge the students’ ability to learn even basic literacy or numeracy skills. 

In some communities there simply are no government schools for children to attend.

One fast-growing solution is low-cost, affordable private schools. But while these ensure local children have access to education, they often lack infrastructure, capacity and teacher resources.

Through School Improvement Loans, Opportunity International’s global EduFinance program helps schools invest in infrastructure, add new classrooms or gender-separated washrooms, or purchase teaching and learning resources and essential equipment to facilitate better learning opportunities for children. 

To better understand impact and to seek ways to improve the program, EduFinance partnered with University of Chicago’s Center for RISC (Radical Innovation for Social Change) and used Uganda’s Primary Leaving Examination scores to measure the effectiveness of School Improvement Loans.

The purpose of the study was to provide EduFinance with insights into two important research questions:

  1. How effective have school investments been in increasing learning outcomes for pupils?
  2. What are the most effective investments that a low fee school proprietor can make to increase learning outcomes for pupils?

The study used the Primary Leaving Examination scores for 9,580 schools in Uganda from 2010 to 2016 and 2019, measuring the loan amounts, the type of investment made and years available for 77 schools that worked with Opportunity EduFinance. The study then compared the changes in test scores of Opportunity EduFinance schools that made school investments to those schools that didn’t. 

Key Findings:

  • Opportunity EduFinance schools that invested a School Improvement Loan performed better on average on the Ugandan Primary Leaving Examination test (7.24 percentile points) than the rest of the schools in Uganda. This result was statistically significant.
  • Student scores from EduFinance schools also made a statistically significant shift upwards towards Division 1 (highest) and Division 2 (second highest) ratings. 
  • Schools overwhelmingly preferred infrastructural investments such as building classrooms and hallways to pedagogical interventions such as teacher training.
  • Engagement with the EduQuality program shows a possible relationship with improving scores, results, however, were not yet statistically significant.

The findings support anecdotal evidence and validate the importance of the EduFinance program.

The RISC team conducting the research reported, “We found compelling evidence that the investments made by Opportunity EduFinance schools are improving educational outcomes – and the gains in learning outcomes are large.” 

Find out more about Opportunity’s EduFinance program

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