The relationship between educational television and mathematics capability in Tanzania

Resource type
Journal Article
The relationship between educational television and mathematics capability in Tanzania
Previous studies have often demonstrated that educational television can have a positive effect on learning outcomes in low-income countries when delivered in controlled settings. However, existing research in low-resource contexts has scarcely considered the association between child outcomes and viewing in usual environments (ie, at their home, a friend’s home or a relative’s home). This lack of research is striking, as evidence from controlled settings might provide limited information on the effects of normal television exposure. This paper, therefore, investigates the relationship between normal exposure to a popular Tanzania-produced cartoon, Ubongo Kids and mathematics capability, as represented by plausible values derived from an item response theory model applied to children’s test responses. Cross-sectional investigation of a sample of 38 682 Tanzanian children suggested normal educational television exposure to be significantly associated with mathematics capability, when controlling for age, sex, school enrolment, Kiswahili attainment and household fixed effects. While cross-sectional results are not necessarily causal, the findings in this paper broadly correspond with those from previous designs using repeated observations. What is more, considering association results alongside cost and viewership estimates suggests television-based interventions to be highly cost effective. Practitioner Notes What is already known about this topic National data for Tanzania suggests the country to have both low levels of mathematics proficiency and considerable access to television technology. Educational television-based interventions might, therefore, be worthy of consideration by educational policymakers, especially given that studies conducted in controlled settings indicate that television can deliver learning benefits. There is, however, little evidence concerning educational television exposure outside of controlled settings. Only one such study in a low-income context that concerned the association between learning outcomes and viewing among primary-age children has been identified. What this paper adds This paper addresses this dearth of research by investigating the association between normal exposure to a Tanzanian cartoon, Ubongo Kids and mathematics capability, as derived from an item response theory model applied to the test responses of 38 682 children. Cross-sectional findings suggest the association between normal television exposure and mathematics capability to be significant. Further, a cost-effectiveness comparison with alternate interventions in comparable contexts indicates that educational television is highly cost-effective. Implications for practice and/or policy The findings presented in this paper concerning educational television viewership in usual environments act to triangulate those from prior research conducted in controlled settings. As such, policymakers in low-income contexts now possess more convincing evidence on the potential influence of educational television interventions. Additionally, the cost-effectiveness comparison made suggests that educational television should be considered a viable option by policymakers seeking to address learning outcomes with limited resources.
British Journal of Educational Technology
27/05/2021, 11:21
Library Catalogue
Wiley Online Library
© 2020 The Authors. British Journal of Educational Technology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Educational Research Association
Watson, J., Hennessy, S., & Vignoles, A. (2021). The relationship between educational television and mathematics capability in Tanzania. British Journal of Educational Technology, 52(2), 638–658.