From an article by the World Bank
Why are positive role models considered powerful? An experiment in Uganda goes some way towards answering this question:
A role model shows us how we can be more or achieve more.
In Uganda in 2016 – between a week and a month before their final exams – about 1,600 secondary school students came to a special screening at the movies. Half of them – selected randomly – watched Queen of Katwe, the story of a low-income, out-of-school Ugandan girl (Phiona) who learned to play chess and ultimately enjoys a better life. As Emma Riley, the author of the experiment, writes, “Phiona goes from nothing, living in the slums and selling corn to passing drivers, to getting into the top school in Kampala, succeeding at chess and achieving her dreams. She does this while overcoming numerous difficulties along the way, all through hard work and perseverance.” In other words, Phiona is a great role model.
The other half of the students saw Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, a fun, adventure movie, but not one likely to motivate you, unless your goal is to battle monsters.
What happened on math exam day? For students in Senior 4 (the fourth year of secondary school), 84% of those who watched Queen of Katwe passed the exam, whereas only 73% of those who didn’t, passed. The impacts were even bigger for girls and for those whose previous exam scores weren’t so good. In other words, the students who may have related most to Phiona (a poorly educated girl) were those who responded most to her role modeling.
In future, one could show the film in schools rather than at the cinema at much lower cost.
How long does the impact of seeing a cinematic role model endure? We don’t know. Of course, even if the effects are short-lived, passing a major end-of-year exam might be worth the investment.
You can get the gist of the movie from the trailer below:
Is this a one-off?
In Madagascar, another experiment was undertaken. A role model (in this case, an “educated person with high income, who grew up in the local school district”) shared her life story at a school and students’ test performance significantly increased when the role model had come from a poor background, not when she came from a well-off background.
Why not identify appropriate role models and/or films and co-ordinate events with local schools?
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