Participation & Messaging

Participation & Messaging

What is Participation & Messaging?  Technology to promote participation in school.

The challenge facing the education sector: A significant number of children are out of school worldwide and this situation has been exacerbated by the impact of Covid-19. Many of the most marginalized who were previously enrolled in schools are at risk of never returning.

And so we ask: How can nudge technologies and messaging apps be used to re-engage students, reduce the number of out-of-school children, and improve learning outcomes?

Our goal

End simplistic approaches to messaging

Messaging is considered to be the most cost-effective means of increasing Learning-Adjusted Years of Schooling (LAYS). However, the evidence for this is limited and there is a lack of understanding regarding the factors that make messaging more or less effective in certain contexts. This combination means that policymakers tend to invest in messaging in overly simplistic ways, assuming it to be a silver bullet. Clear evidence on how messaging should be used in different contexts will increase the impact it has on participation and learning outcomes.

Latest evidence

Topic Area Readouts
Working Papers

EdTech Hub, Leh Wi Lan, the MBSSE and the TSC came together to test a proposed data management model in two phases. The first phase focused on 40 schools in Freetown while the second phase focused on 40 schools in Port Loko.

Notably, participating schools already had experience of using tablet based data systems through the Leh Wi Lan programme. This process aimed to generate insights on how and why school leaders engage with tablet-based data management systems to inform
the development of tools that better meet their needs.

This paper presents detailed analysis from the first phase of user testing for the MBSSE and TSC to use to refine the design of the programme. When conducting this analysis, we used a sequential mixed-methods approach to
understand the experiences of participating school leaders. The paper begins with background information on data-driven decision-making and the One Tablet Per School programme.

The subsequent sections outline the study’s methodological approach and summarise our findings before ending with recommendations for the next iteration of programme delivery

Read Document

In September 2020, Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE) approached EdTech Hub to seek technical support with the design of the One Tablet Per School programme. A core component of the programme focuses on collecting dynamic school-level data — teacher registration, student enrolment, teacher and student attendance, Covid-19 cases — to inform programming and policy decisions. In this context, EdTech Hub embedded a team member within the MBSSE’s Delivery Unit to support the development of this data system. The MBSSE established the Delivery Unit. in August 2020 to strengthen the = government’s implementation capacity and to monitor progress toward education policy priorities.

This report provides an initial self-assessment of the impact of our technical support after three months. EdTech Hub conducts these assessments to see how we can better support our partners and improve our overall approach to technical support. When preparing the report, we used outcome harvesting to identify observable and significant contributions that EdTech Hub has made to the development of the One Tablet Per School programme. The report begins with background information on education data systems
and the One Tablet Per School programme. The following sections provide an overview of our methodological approach, outline key findings from the assessment and discuss the impact of EdTech Hub’s technical support. The report concludes with practical considerations for the implementation of education data systems.

Read Document


The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic prompted school closures, which affected nearly 1.5 billion learners globally. Girls are likely to have experienced learning losses during the pandemic to a greater extent, as there are multiple barriers that influence gender disparities in accessing and benefiting from EdTech, including social inequalities or norms and technological constraints. Equity needs to be foregrounded when EdTech interventions are implemented, by considering disparities emerging from digital access, freedom, literacy, pedagogies, and design.

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This study explores the potential impact of interactive audio content for students and teachers delivered via Interactive Voice Response (IVR) in Ghana following the reopening of schools. The content for the lessons was drawn from the Rising On Air (ROA) audio library, a 20-week programme developed by Rising Academies to support student learning over the radio during Covid-19 pandemic-related school closures. Rising Academies’ 30 low-cost private primary schools, known as Omega schools, were included in a randomised controlled trial.

Half of the schools were randomised to receive the student intervention and the other half to receive the teacher intervention. Of the total sample of 1,359 students, 719 students in Grades 4, 5 and 6 received daily audio lessons that focused on foundational numeracy skills. Of the total sample of 333 teachers, 160 teachers received weekly professional development sessions focused on the instruction of foundational reading. In the student intervention, no significant effect was found on students’ math skills and although the majority of students reported liking the intervention and wanting it to continue, engagement was a significant challenge.

Results from the teacher intervention indicated an improvement in teachers’ understanding of phonemic awareness, phonics, and morphology. Teachers’ beliefs about their ability to improve student learning in the areas of reading and engagement also increased, but the potential impact on student outcomes was not measured. Differences between the student and teacher interventions suggest some important considerations for future interventions delivered via IVR and highlight some of the challenges as well as potential opportunities for more effective low-tech solutions.

Delivered in partnership with: Rising Academy Network

Read Document

This EdTech Horizon Scan examines the issue of online safety in digital education — why it should be prioritised, how it is currently being approached, and its potential to become central to education design in low- and middle-income countries. Given that the internet has no borders, there is much to be done to address online safety in all parts of the world — high-income and low- and middle-income countries alike.

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Despite two years of recovery since Covid-19 lockdowns, school systems worldwide still experience lower post-pandemic attendance levels than pre-Covid. Marginalised learners have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Several strategies are being used to accelerate returns to schooling. Messaging is one strategy that is often regarded as likely to be highly cost-effective.

Our Hub-led research in Ghana tests and compares different messaging models to support caregivers in their efforts to encourage their children’s attendance at school. Read on to see what we are learning about messaging interventions, their cost-effectiveness, and how they could be contextualised, as well as what we know about messaging to increase school participation.

Read Blog

Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, parents, teachers, students and policymakers have been exploring how to support students to learn at home. The emphasis on education at home has made evident the need to better equip caregivers to support their children’s learning.

The Keep Kenya Learning (KKL) initiative is helping parents and caregivers build their capacity and confidence to support learning at home. In this blog, we highlight the importance of parental engagement in learning, and outline lessons we’ve learnt about how to increase parental engagement during the pandemic and beyond.

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The current approaches to providing high quality learning experiences to learners with disabilities in low and middle-income (LMICs) countries requires radical rethinking. To date, significant numbers of learners with disabilities are not enjoying the benefits of barrier-free and meaningful engagement with the school curriculum in order to reach their potential. Appropriately matched technology to learner needs – in terms of good fit, safety and durability – is crucial to ensure learners with disabilities can actively engage with the curriculum and lead fulfilled and dignified lives.

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Our goal is to empower the people making decisions about technology in education.
Helpdesk Responses

This topic brief examines the literature on technology-based, remote approaches to supporting learning in the early years for children from birth to age five, identifying promising practices for using EdTech in early childhood education (ECE) in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). It draws on the nurturing care framework, Principles for Digital Development, and effective pedagogical practices for ECE.

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This list curates resources on the use of EdTech to support the effective monitoring of educational outcomes, such as learning, reporting, and attendance. Resources shared are both tools and initiatives that can be adapted to support effective educational monitoring.

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Like millions of other schools around the world, schools in refugee camps had to close with the onset of Covid-19. Jusoor, a charity providing help to Syrian refugees, moved quickly to set up WhatsApp-based learning for children in refugee camps in Lebanon.

WhatsApp became a temporary classroom. Teachers used it to distribute assignments, and children used it to submit their work. While this idea seemed to be working, the response rate varied a lot – some children were engaging 20% of the time, others 60%.

This idea resonated with the recommendations of EdTech Hub’s Messaging Applications Rapid Evidence Review, that messaging can be used in a range of learning activities, through a combination of sharing educational materials, with interaction between pupils, peers, caregivers and teachers. ​

In partnership with UNHCR, the EdTech Hub joined Jusoor to run a sandbox focused on delving deeper and gathering more evidence on the WhatsApp model.

How could WhatsApp best be used to provide effective education refugee children?

Partner: Jusoor

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An EdTech Hub helpdesk response on distance learning for primary-level deaf children made some recommendations for educators working with deaf learners, who have limited or no access to the internet, hardware or software. 1) provide access to devices; 2) provide modular content; and 3) test different digital solutions. In Pakistan, Deaf Reach had created started to create short videos in Pakistani Sign Language (PSL). A small evaluation conducted after providing laptops with these videos to 44 children for 3 months showed significant learning gains.

We wanted to build on these initial results and Deaf Reach’s existing video content. The goal was to test different EdTech interventions, and find out: which ones would be most suitable for providing distance learning for deaf children?

Partner: Deaf Reach

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The Covid-19 pandemic has catalysed the need for technology-enhanced education globally. This is no different in Bangladesh, where the Education Section of the UNICEF Bangladesh Country Office is seeking a better understanding of the role and potential of EdTech to improve numeracy skills among the most marginalised learners, working closely with the government and EdTech Hub to identify how EdTech can best be harnessed to support learning in Bangladesh. This partnership uses the sandbox approach — which provides a space for partners to test and grow ideas in conditions of uncertainty — to test how EdTech modalities that aim to improve numeracy outcomes for Grade 6 learners (early secondary) in Bandarban, one of the most remote areas of Bangladesh, can be used most effectively by learners and educators.

This report outlines the process and findings from the needs assessment and hypothesis development phase. These findings (as well as the data collection which informs them) are organised around five research questions developed by EdTech Hub in partnership with Agami Education Foundation, the implementing agency for the sandbox.

The findings of the research were distributed in themes that outlined the availability and utilisation of technology and a valid level of knowledge and interest in teachers and students towards using technology for education. While some findings shed light on the technical aspects of the context, some human factors also played a role in resisting the acceptance of technology in education. Building on the learning from this needs assessment phase, Agami Education Foundation and EdTech Hub have agreed to test this implementation plan in the upcoming staggered deployment phase.

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Research in progress

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