The Effects of School Safety on Academic Achievement: Evidence from Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia
The research objective of this study is to identify the causal direction and magnitudes of student and teacher perception of safety on learning outcomes in Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zambia through a quasi-experimental analysis.
Data for this study is tabulated from USAID’s Global Reading Network: EdData Initiative. The EdData assessment collects primary surveys from developing country households, schools, and communities on issues of access to education, quality, and management. In this study, we gather information from three EdData assessments: Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA), the Early Grade Mathematics Assessment (EGMA), and the Snapshot of School Management Effectiveness (SSME). Overall, we synthesize information on 3,711 primary school students in Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zambia, collected between 2011 and 2013.
Student reported school safety: We find negative effects of an unsafe school environment on learning outcomes for reading and math in all aforementioned estimation procedures of Rwandan students, who self-reported their perception of school safety. Results show that for 6th grade math evaluations, a student who feels unsafe solves seven fewer addition problems correctly per minute (36% deviation from average performance), compared to peers who feel safe at school. For 4th grade math evaluations, the difference is about two problems per minute (20% deviation from average performance) when compared to students of similar characteristics, who only differ through the perception of school safety. Also, 6th grade English reading fluency is significantly affected, with students who feel unsafe reading about five fewer words per minute than comparable peers (12% deviation from average performance).
Head teacher reported school safety: Negative effects are found both in regression and quasi- experimental estimation for Tanzania, where head teachers reported perceptions of school safety among students. Specifically, quasi-experimental estimation shows that Tanzanian students who reportedly had an unsafe learning environment solved 0.7 fewer problems correctly per minute in math addition (7% deviation from average performance). Also, English reading fluency is significantly affected, with students who had an unsafe environment reading about eight fewer words per minute than comparable peers (33% deviation from average performance). It is worth pointing out that an average Tanzanian student loses one-third of his/her reading efficiency (the mean being 24 words per minute) solely due to school safety issues. Particularly in the 2nd grade regression analysis for Tanzania, we find that female students perform worse than their male peers in English reading assessments, when both girls and boys are facing unsafe school environments. Also, the presence of security guards in unsafe school environments is found to reduce the negative consequence on 2nd grade math outcomes. For Zambia, where a head teacher reported safety, we do not find statistically significant effects of school safety, except for 3rd grade English reading. The quasi-experimental estimations show an 11% reduction from the average performance in English evaluations.