The relationship between educational television and mathematics capability in Tanzania

Change log
Watson, Joseph 

Previous studies have frequently demonstrated that educational television viewing can have a positive effect on learning in low-income country contexts when shows are delivered in controlled settings. However, the consequence of day-to-day viewing in such contexts has scarcely been considered. Additionally, no recent published research has provided any information on the costs of educational television. The lack of research in these areas is striking. Examining educational television viewing in monitored settings provides limited information on the influence of routine television consumption. Further, the broad reach of numerous educational television programmes should provide low per-viewer costs and, resultantly, strong cost-effectiveness findings. This PhD study therefore examined (1) the association between educational television exposure and mathematics capability and (2) the cost effectiveness of educational television interventions. To achieve this, research was carried out that centred on Ubongo Kids – a popular Tanzanian-produced show delivering mathematics-focused content.

Quantitative investigation into the association between educational television exposure and mathematics capability used nationally representative data, collected by Uwezo Tanzania. A household fixed-effects model showed that exposure to educational television was significantly associated with mathematics capability among children aged 7-16, when controlling for age, sex, school enrolment and Kiswahili attainment. Findings from this model were used in cost-effectiveness calculations, alongside cost data and an estimate of the number of Ubongo Kids viewers. Results compared favourably against those for other interventions, with calculations regarding Ubongo Kids’ ongoing activities suggesting it to have been more cost effective than any other intervention previously investigated using the same cost-effectiveness approach. These findings indicate that in low-income contexts: educational television programmes can aid learning; and, that directing a greater proportion of available educational resources towards educational television interventions may benefit educational outcomes.

Vignoles, Anna
Hennessy, Sara
Educational television, Mathematics
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge