Back to School: the next round of Young Lives school surveys

Girls riding their bikes through the street

Young Lives education researchers Padmini Iyer and Rhiannon Moore give us an update on the next round of school surveys about to start in this new school year.   

For children in many countries, September means it’s time to go back to school. School uniforms are coming out of the wardrobe, pencils are being sharpened, and everyone’s wondering where summer has gone! This year, Young Lives is also heading back to the classroom to undertake a further round of school surveys in our sites in Ethiopia, India and Vietnam. These will build upon the school effectiveness design used in the primary school surveys which took place in Vietnam (2011-12) and Ethiopia (2012-13) to explore the educational experiences of Young Lives children and their peers, and to understand how much value is added by one year of schooling across these diverse contexts.

Young Lives school surveys, 2009 – 2013

Between 2009 and 2013, Young Lives conducted school surveys in all four study countries, after findings from the household survey showed that formal schooling was playing an increasingly important role in the lives of Young Lives children. These surveys focused on the Young Lives Younger Cohort children (and in some of the countries, their peers) who were attending primary school at that time. The survey design, sampling methodology and instruments varied across the countries to reflect the different educational priorities, policies and institutional structures in each study country at the time of the survey.

Findings from the primary school surveys address some of the key themes and issues in education in each of the study countries:



Young Lives school surveys in 2016-17: school effectiveness research design

This academic year (2016-17) we will be conducting a further round of school effectiveness surveys in Ethiopia, India and Vietnam. The key focus areas for the surveys are:

  • Benchmarking levels of student attainment and progress in key learning domains;
  • Effects of school and teacher quality, and school effectiveness;
  • Educational transitions at age 15.

The 2016-17 school surveys focus on the level of schooling accessed by 15-year-olds in each country, as this is the current age of the Young Lives Younger Cohort children. This means the survey will include Grade 7 and 8 students in Ethiopia (upper primary level), Grade 9 students in India (lower secondary level), and Grade 10 students in Vietnam (upper secondary level).

We have designed the surveys with a broadly similar school effectiveness research design to that used in the Vietnam and Ethiopia primary school surveys. Following this design,  cognitive tests (Maths and English) will be administered to students at the beginning of the school year (Wave 1) and the end of the school year (Wave 2), accompanied by background instruments and psychosocial measures (on academic self-concept, motivation and so on) which will collect data to contextualise the learning progress made by students. A one-off Transferable Skills test will also take place at the end of the school year.  This ‘repeated measures’ design, with a cognitive test at the beginning and end of the school year, will allow us to measure students’ progress through the course of the year, as well as their learning levels. Through undertaking ‘value-added’ analysis where prior attainment and background effects are controlled for, we hope to be able to attribute some of this learning progress to factors at school, teacher and classroom level.

Sampling design

In all three countries, the school surveys taking place this year will collect data from schools within the twenty Young Lives sentinel sites. In Ethiopia, an additional ten sites in Somali and Afar will also be included (as they were in the primary school survey in 2012-13) to further reflect the cultural and geographic diversity of the country. The sampling design varies slightly in each country to reflect the research priorities and educational context in each country, and is as follows:

  • Ethiopia: 62 upper primary schools, approx. 12,000 students
  • India: 212 secondary schools, approx. 12,000 students
  • Vietnam: 55 upper secondary schools, approx. 9,000 students

In India, where there are a larger number of smaller schools, the sample is stratified by school type (government, tribal/social welfare, private aided, private unaided), with the number of schools selected proportional to the number of schools in each site. In Vietnam and Ethiopia, where there are a smaller number of larger schools, a census sampling approach is used, covering all schools with the appropriate grades in each site.


Survey instruments and test development

The following instruments are being developed for the 2016-17 school surveys:

  • Three student outcome measures: Maths test, functional English test, and Transferable Skills test;
  • Background questionnaires for students, teachers and head teachers

In terms of student outcome measures, we have developed two multiple choice Maths and multiple choice English tests for each country. These tests will be administered at the beginning and the end of the school year, and ‘anchor’ items (i.e., items that are directly replicated) will link the two tests together to support analysis of student progress. Items which are common between countries have also been included in the tests, which will allow us to conduct cross-country analysis of student learning and progress. Meanwhile, we are also in the process of developing a Transferable Skills test; this will be administered at the end of the school year, and aims to assess problem-solving and critical-thinking skills.

Finally… Where are we now and what’s next?

Now: Wave 1 data collection has begun in India, and starts in September for Vietnam and in October for Ethiopia.

Over the next few months: Preparations for Wave 2 are already underway. We will continue to develop a Transferable Skills test, as well as psychosocial measures for students and teachers, and we will conduct pre-pilot and pilot tests in each country to refine these instruments.

End of the school year: Wave 2 data collection will take place from January – March in India, and between March – May 2017 in Ethiopia and Vietnam. 

We’ll be posting school survey updates over the course of the year – so watch this space. You can also view our 2016 School Survey Slideshare presentation here.