450/2019 Laura Derksen, Catherine Michaud Leclerc and Pedro CL Souza
Young people across the developing world are gaining access to the internet. Can schools introduce the internet in a way that promotes reading and learning? We provide Wikipedia access to a random subset of secondary school students in Malawian boarding schools. This setting is unique: students otherwise have limited study resources and no internet access. Students used Wikipedia intensively, and found it accessible and trustworthy. They developed a preference for Wikipedia over other online sources, including for information about news events and safe sex. We find a large impact on English final exam scores (.11 standard deviations), especially for low achievers (.21 standard deviations). Students also used Wikipedia to study for Biology, and exam scores increased for low achievers (.17 standard deviations). Our results imply that Wikipedia is a source of simple and engaging reading material, and can improve English language skills. It is also a source of accessible study material that increases study time productivity for low achievers.
Culture and Development