Lifting performance of disadvantaged students

Lifting performance of disadvantaged students

2 minute read

John Mitchell Fellow Dr Sutanuka Roy is conducting the first large-scale randomised control trial of legally recognised Indian minorities to understand how policies, prizes and scholarships (rewards) are best structured to incentivise the academic performance of disadvantaged students.

In a trial involving more than 14,000 undergraduate students, Sutanuka is examining the causal effects of providing rank-based financial incentives to disadvantaged students in a high stakes University test.  

Preliminary findings indicate that, while rewards serve as powerful performance incentives for eligible students, they disincentivise those who are ineligible to apply. Moreover, when the reduction in motivation amongst ineligible students is high enough, it has the potential to reduce the learning outcomes of the targeted students, an outcome orthogonal to the original intent.

“This paper has several implications for policy,” Sutanuka explains. “In resource poor environments where the influence of peers is likely strong, policies that enhance positive in-class outcomes may be more effective in improving learning for the poor, compared to incentives for the poor to work harder to achieve a high rank in examinations.”

By ensuring that policies appropriately scaffold academic performance of disadvantaged cohorts, Sutanuka’s work is helping underwrite students’ future employability and, ultimately, close the income gap.

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