Evaluation of the Impact of School Canteen Programs on Internal Efficiency of Schools, Cognitive Acquisitions and Learning Capacities
Students in Rural Primary Schools in Senegal
This study evaluates the impact of school canteen programs on the performance of rural primary schools in Senegal using a "randomized experiment." 120 schools which had never had school canteens were selected in the four poorest regions of Senegal. They were randomly assigned to treatment and control groups. Students in the second (CP) and fourth (CE2) years of primary school were observed in each of the selected schools. Many tests (student, Kolmogorov-Smirnov, Mann-Whitney Levene, Chi2) were performed in order to verify the random nature of the treatment assignment. The results show that, at the school level, the two groups are relatively homogenous, but there are some differences at the individual level. Thus, the double difference methods used to estimate the impact of the meal program on academic performance.
The results are as follows: the canteen has a positive and significant impact on the overall score of students in grade 2 (10.56 points). This result is confirmed in both mathematics (12.32 points) and French (8.72 points). However, the impact is not significant for older children (more than 10 years old) in CP. In terms of gender, the study shows a difference in the impact in favor of girls in the fourth grade. Looking at the cognitive impact, we find that, except for the level of knowledge, the canteen has a greater impact on the cognitive ability of the youngest (aged six and seven years). Competencies in memory (33.23 points) and reasoning (23.92 points) improved by more. These results are all significant at the 5% confidence level. However, school canteens do not improve the internal efficacy of public primary schools: dropouts and repeated grades have certainly decreased, but none of the results are statistically significant.
By improving the nutritional intake of children who benefit from the meals supplied to the school, the canteens have positive externalities on the nutritional intake of children living with the beneficiary students. Moreover, there are interaction effects between the school canteen and two traditional schooling quality inputs: poverty and class size. Regarding these results, we can state that universalizing school canteens can be an effective method to accelerate progress towards quality education for all.