How better information campaigns could improve access to education for the most disadvantaged
Yenee Kim, EDHEC Assistant Professor, and her co-authors - Malobi Mukherjee (James Cook Univ.) and Reetika Gupta (ESSEC) - analyses, in an article originally published in French in The Conversation, their field study conducted in eastern India on education information campaigns.
Access to education is one of the key basic human rights and a stepping stone for economic growth, well-being, and sustainable development. Yet, 1 in 10 young adults in the world (out of approximately 1 billion global youth) lack basic reading, writing, and numeracy skills (1).
Thus, it is not surprising education and poverty are strongly linked. Poverty often places a stronghold on children’s educational opportunities and aspirations. The vast majority (92%) of the poorest youth across Sub-Saharan Africa, and Central and Southern Asia did not complete upper secondary school (2). In India specifically, only 8% of the poorest young adults complete their upper secondary school (2).
Indeed, many barriers stand in the way of India’s poorest children when it comes to education. First, the lack of parental awareness towards education, pressure on children to contribute to household income as well as daily chores contribute to pushing further away the ability for children to complete their secondary education. However, education is crucial to these children as it is one of the most powerful methods of breaking the vicious cycle of poverty.
To understand the reasons behind these low completion rates, we conducted a quasi-field experiment that uncovered the psychological mechanisms driving children’s education for the Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP) - people earning between 1.90$ and 3.20$ per day according to the World Bank - in eastern India. We focused our research on understanding how education campaigns toward the BoP can be made more effective through the lens of construal level theory (3).
Construal level theory is a social psychology concept positing that the more distant you perceive an event, the more this event will feel abstract to you and you will focus on the desirability factors of the event. On the other hand, the closer you perceive an event, you will perceive the event to be more concrete and focus on the feasibility factors of the event.
Distance can either be physical, temporal, social, or psychological. For example, if you are thinking about taking a vacation in a year, you will have more abstract thoughts and focus on the desirability factors such as the destination and imagining the relaxing time you’ll have. But, if you were to travel next week, you will think more concretely and focus on the feasibility factors such as choosing your hotel and calculating at what time you should leave your house.
Segmenting the vast segment of BoP
Different segments can arise among the global BoP population (4). For example, the more financially deprived BoP consumers (approximately 1.4 billion people) do not have access to food, shelter, or potable water and rely mostly on aid from non-profit organisations to survive. The middle segment, consisting of approximately 1.6 billion people, generally has an unsteady income as day laborers or temporary workers and can typically afford one meal a day. Lastly, the less financially deprived BoP consumers (approximately 1 billion people) may earn semi-regular income and can sparingly afford some consumer goods such as televisions, mobile phones, and bicycles.
Based on this, we considered that different levels of financial deprivation will trigger different construal levels, or differences in how close or far they perceive their children’s education. BoP consumers with higher levels of financial deprivation would perceive the education to be distant psychologically (or at a higher construal level). On the opposite side, BoP consumers with lower levels of financial deprivation would perceive the education to be psychologically closer (or at a lower construal level). Therefore, we considered that the more deprived BoP consumers would likely be more receptive to an abstract approach to their children’s education, such as the appeal of a successful future. On the other hand, the less deprived BoP consumers would more likely respond to a concrete approach to their children’s education, such as simple and easy access.
To ascertain this theory, we conducted a quasi-field experiment study with 80 BoP participants in a West Bengal village in Eastern India. We showed our respondents two different education campaigns for their children during our face-to-face interviews. One focused highly on desirability (i.e., “successful future for your child”), and the other focused on feasibility (i.e., “simple and easy access to education for your child”).
Results confirmed our theory. Participants with higher financial deprivation had higher liking of the campaign which had a desirability framing, appealed by the abstract and distant vision of education bringing “a successful future” for their child. Participants with lower levels of financial deprivation preferred the education campaign which had a feasibility framing, with a more concrete approach highlighting “easier access to education” for their child.
Reducing barriers to education
Overall, this study investigates the psychological mechanisms in how the BoP segment approaches education for their children, and how we can use different framing types to encourage children’s education. In doing so, we provide insightful suggestions on how to enhance the effectiveness of children’s education campaigns targeted at the BoP segment.
Specifically, this research suggests that 1) education campaigns should be tailored across BoP consumers and the vast BoP segment of 4 billion people should not be treated as a whole, and 2) it is essential to develop BoP education campaigns based on insights from BoP consumers who are the main audience for higher effectiveness. All in all, differentiated strategies and targeted messages are central to communicating the benefits of children’s education across the BoP population.
Accordingly, this study can have huge implications for policymakers, governments, and non-profit organisations working to alleviate education barriers, potentially globally, although our study was limited to countries in the tropics.
This article, written by Yenee Kim, Assistant Professor at EDHEC Business School, Malobi Mukherjee, Senior Lecturer at James Cook University and Reetika Gupta, Associate Professor at ESSEC, has been initially published in French in The Conversation under Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.