The STEM II project (Supporting the Education of Marginalised Girls) was funded by UK aid through the Girls’ Education Challenge. Since 2017 it supported marginalised girls to stay in school and access better quality education, leading to improved literacy and numeracy outcomes. The ‘in-school’ cohort was made up of girls studying at STEM II’s 30 intervention schools from Grades 8, 9 and 10.
At baseline, the project started its interventions with girls studying in Grades 8, 9 and 10. At midline, most girls had moved up a year, with those in Grade 10 graduating from the national Secondary Education Examination (SEE) school leaving exams.
STEM II provided support to in-school girls through revision classes, life skills sessions via Girls’ Clubs, and Upgrading Grade classes to help girls successfully move on to Grade 11. Beyond this, STEM provided and monitored various teaching and learning activities to enhance the quality of teaching for girls, including training on student-centred teaching methodologies.
In-School Girls’ Clubs
The Girls’ Clubs were designed to improve girls’ learning outcomes for literacy and numeracy, and improve girls’ self-efficacy, life skills and transition pathways. They were extra classes, designed using student-centred teaching methodologies, available only to female students. These gave in-school girls the opportunity to improve their learning outcomes by attending extra classes on four core subjects; English, maths, science and Nepali, with additional classes on adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASHR).
The project took an iterative approach to the Girls’ Club through the life of STEM II, adapting to the needs of the girls. For instance, following the first round of the Girls’ Club, Nepali was introduced as a subject and the number of maths classes were increased, to provide additional dedicated support to improve learning achievements in numeracy, as many of the participants were struggling with the subject. For the remainder of the project, the after-school revision clubs’ core subjects were maths, English, Nepali and science, as well as training on life skills and ASRH. The number of clubs scheduled was decided based on the individual girls’ data, which contained information on their demographics, academic achievement, project involvement and interest, which was then triangulated with school records.
|9||30 Hrs||18 Hrs||18 Hrs||26 Hrs||8 Hrs||10 Hrs|
|10||30 Hrs||18 Hrs||18 Hrs||26 Hrs||8 Hrs||10 Hrs|
|Total||60 Hrs||36 Hrs||36 Hrs||52 Hrs||16 Hrs||20 Hrs|
The STEM team continuously worked to encourage the girls to attend both the clubs and regular classes. This included engaging with other stakeholders such as parents, teachers, School Management Committees (SMCs) and Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) and community members who make a difference in the girls’ lives, to build an enabling environment. To motivate and raise awareness of the importance of attending schools, the project conducted door-to-door campaigns, street dramas, and radio jingles. In addition, social mobilisers conducted home visits of absentee girls to see what could be done to improve their attendance in the girls’ clubs. The shows the overall attendance of girls at the clubs.
In order to see if the girls were making progress during the one-hour Girls’ Clubs sessions, STEM II developed a pre-post-test of all core subjects taught in the club. For the second cycle of Girls’ Clubs, the project conducted two rounds of pre and post-tests. Out of 3,151 in-school girls, 1,320 and 981 girls were sampled for the first and second round respectively. On average, the results showed a 58.5 percent increase in test scores in the first round and 65.6 percent increase in the second round. The results, disaggregated by subject and grade, are shown in the table below.
Table : Average total score of first and second round of pre and post test
Similar evidence was seen in the midline evaluation, with a 7.6 percent increase in literacy grades and 22.2 percent increase in numeracy grades from girls at the STEM II schools, scores that were 4.2 and 10.8 percent higher in literacy and numeracy respectively than girls at the control schools. Furthermore, the Girls’ Clubs supported the successful transition of 94.5 percent of in-school girls into successive grades. During the qualitative data collection, many of the girls credited the increase in their scores to the child-friendly teaching methodologies used in the clubs, the new teaching methodology introduced for maths (a worksheet designed by experts from Kathmandu University), and the smaller class sizes and all-girls set up of the clubs, which allowed the girls to ask questions and get clarity on the subject matter without interference.
The Girls’ Clubs were the backbone of the in-school interventions of STEM II, by directly supporting girls’ learning outcomes. The girls have reiterated the fact that the clubs have not only helped them academically, but also boosted their self-confidence.
“Through my continuous efforts and support from the facilitators in the club, the girl who failed her exams last year now has secured first position in her exams. I am really excited about my performance – my confidence has increased, and I am much more enthusiastic to perform better in my exams and achieve the dreams of my life.”
Gita, 16 years old
SEE Upgrading Grade Classes
Every year, the students of Grade 10 sit the Government of Nepal’s Secondary Education Examination (SEE), which is considered to be a milestone for students and a key element in determining their future prospects. Following the introduction of the grading system in Nepal, students who score below 1.6 GPA are not allowed to study Science, Management and Humanities, which are the most popular courses in Nepal. Therefore, the project team provided extra classes (free of cost) to those who wanted to increase their grades through retaking exams.
A total of 1,537 girls from STEM schools sat the SEE in 2018. Subsequently, 876 of those girls (57 percent), from 28 schools, then signed up for the Upgrading Grade classes in order to improve their chances of continuing to study the subjects of their choice and move on to Grade 11 successfully. Of the 876 girls, in 16 clusters, 54.7 percent were Tharu, 33.2 percent were Brahmin/Chhetri, 9.5 percent were Dalit, 2.3 percent were Janjati and 0.3 percent were from other ethnic groups.
The table below presents the initial SEE grades secured by 790 girls in English, maths, science, social studies and economics and the grades they scored after attending the Upgrading Grade classes. Although a larger number of girls took the classes, the following figures are limited to the number of girls whose grades were available through the survey conducted by the project. The table shows that, on average, the classes led to an improvement in the students’ grades, which enabled many of them to continue studying their favoured subject at a higher level.
Teacher quality improvement
To ensure STEM II participants were properly supported to improve their learning outcomes in school, teachers and SMC members from the project schools participated in a Training of Trainers, which both taught the participants proven teaching and learning methodologies that met girls’ needs, but also taught them how to pass knowledge of these methodologies onto others. These new teaching and learning methodologies were reinforced through many different strategies that build an enabling environment for teachers. These included opportunities to build learning and sharing networks with colleagues across the district, communication networks, opportunities to engage in joint planning across disciplines at a district level, and collaborative assessment sessions with teachers. Please see the graphic for details on the outcomes of these efforts to improve teaching quality in the STEM II schools.