The use of interactive distance learning technology to deliver Maths and English lessons daily to more than 10,000 girls and boys in 72 government schools in some of the most deprived communities has had a significant impact on increasing literacy and numeracy skills among marginalised girls.

A new research on Making Ghanaian Girls Great (MGCubed), which is a three-year pilot project funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) and run by the Varkey Foundation, shows an extensive impact an innovative distance-learning programme is having on the educational attainment and life chances of marginalised girls and boys in Ghana.

The research document made available to CDA Consult in Accra on Thursday through Ishara Bhasi Callan, Senior Consultant Apollo Strategic Communications of London, UK revealed that an independent evaluation of MGCubed shows the model has had a significant impact on increasing literacy and numeracy skills among marginalised girls.

The research shows that in literacy tests, MGCubed students were able to read between 3.21-3.74 more words per minute than those in regular classes; and in numeracy tests, MGCubed teaching has been found to increase average scores by the equivalent of one school year.

In addition to the in-school classes, MGCubed delivers an after-school girls’ club called ‘Wonder Women’ to up to 50 girls per school, including out-of-school girls.

The sessions cover topics such as early pregnancy, early marriage, reproductive health, financial literacy, entrepreneurship, career guidance and the environment as well as introducing girls to adult role models.

The goal is to encourage girls to stay in or return to school, and raise their aspirations for their futures.

The document also cited an internal research conducted by the Varkey Foundation, which shows that, in addition to the literacy and numeracy improvements, Teachers are more motivated to do their job.

“Teacher motivation is high, as evidenced by low absenteeism – the rate of teacher absenteeism in MGCubed classes was found to be just 0.5 per cent over the whole project,” the research revealed.

The project is correlated with improved class attendance. Data collected by staff until June 2016 indicates that over the course of the project, average attendance in MGCubed classrooms increased by nearly 7 per cent.

According to the research, the MGCubed is having a spill over effect on classroom instruction. MGCubed facilitators do not restrict their improved knowledge and skills to the MGCubed classrooms, but have been found to employ MGCubed strategies in “regular” classes.

Over three-quarters of facilitators interviewed stated that they used starter activities and nearly three-quarters group work.

The research also shows that MGCubed has increased participation and motivation in school, beyond its principal pupil beneficiaries. In in-depth interviews with girls, nearly 70 per cent of respondents noted a change in the way the MGCubed facilitator teaches in a non-MGCubed class.

Key changes include a reduction in caning, with a third of girls voluntarily reporting that teachers in MGCubed classes did not use the cane.

Other reported changes include teachers “taking their time” or being more patient 23 per cent. Over 40 per cent of pupils cited the use of group work/pair work/”joining in” activities as their favourite aspect of the project because they were able to learn from peers and “discuss freely” rather than “feel shy”.

Of the 230 feedback surveys in which facilitators were recorded as saying they used MGCubed techniques in their classrooms, 100 per cent made an explicit reference to pupils in their classes being more engaged, performing better, and working well as a group.

MGCubed has raised levels of self-esteem, with an increase in girls who volunteer for leadership positions, and a 14 per cent increase in girls who volunteer to answer questions during MGCubed lessons.

The research findings will be announced today by Leonora Dowley, the Varkey Foundation’s Country Director for Ghana, at the Forum for African Women Educationalists 2017 conference in Lusaka, Zambia.

The Varkey Foundation’s Country Director for Ghana explained that: “This new research shows MGCubed’s interactive distance learning model has been incredibly effective at increasing literacy and numeracy skills for disadvantaged girls and boys.

“In addition, it is improving girls’ life chances by combating deep-seated cultural values about girls and their educational potential.

“The results are also testament to the efforts of the Ghana Education Service, including its Girls’ Education Unit, who have worked closely with the Varkey Foundation to design the programme and monitor activities in the schools.”

The Varkey Foundation believes every child deserves a vibrant, stimulating learning environment that awakens and supports their full potential.

“We believe nothing is more important to achieving this than the passion and quality of teachers. We support global teaching capacity and seed excellence and innovation in the next generation of educators.

Making Ghanaian Girls Great! (MGCubed) is Ghana’s first interactive distance-learning project. The project targets marginalized girls and boys in 72 schools, within two regions in Ghana.

The project operates in Ningo Prampram, Shai Osudoku, Ada East and Ada West of the Greater Accra Region and in Kadjebi and Nkwanta South in the Volta Region by providing them with an enhanced quality of education to improve their lives and transform their future.

MGCubed aims at addressing the challenges of teacher quality, teacher absenteeism, and poor student learning by equipping two classrooms in every school with solar-powered computers and projectors through which real-time two-way interactive distance lessons occur.

MGCubed facilitators – either female teaching staff already at the schools or female volunteers from the community – receive training in best-practice pedagogy to enable them to facilitate the in-school distance learning lessons and the after-school lessons, providing a critical link back into the communities to help reinforce the positive attitudinal changes towards girls’ education that the intervention hopes to achieve.

Communication for Development and Advocacy Consult (CDA Consult) provides tailor made development communication tools necessary for operational transformation and translating dreams into achievable goals and equips clients with mechanism for public education on specific issues.

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Source: CDA Consult