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Upscaling CAL: Can a Prefecture Run CAL Alone?

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We tested whether prefectural education officials can manage CAL programs independently.


In its Twelfth Five Year Plan, the Chinese government decided to place computer rooms in rural schools. However, many schools are unsure about how to effectively use computing technology.

Previously, REAP conducted five large-scale trials to evaluate Computer Assisted Learning (CAL), a computer program designed to teach remedial math and Chinese. The results of the trials have shown that CAL boosts students’ academic performance and confidence.

We don’t know whether schools with functioning computer rooms without CAL programs experience the same improvements as schools with CAL. Furthermore, in order to see whether CAL can be scaled-up throughout the country, REAP needs to know whether prefectural education bureaus are capable of managing CAL programs.


We aim to test two things: First, among schools with computer rooms, are those equipped with CAL programs more effective at raising student educational performance than those without CAL? Second, is the government capable of running a CAL program without input from REAP?


Our study includes 119 public rural elementary schools (over 10,000 students) in the Haidong prefecture of Qinghai province. Prior to the study, all of the schools had computer rooms. We will compare schools in three categories: schools without CAL; schools with CAL programs managed by REAP; and schools with CAL programs managed by the Haidong Prefectural Education Bureau.

Like earlier CAL programs, Grade 3-6 students in schools receiving CAL software will spend two hours per week using CAL during their study hall periods.


In line with our previous studies of CAL, we found that CAL programs managed by REAP had a significant, positive effect on students' English test scores, compared to students in schools without CAL. In contrast, CAL programs managed by the government had no impact on student test scores.

Using causal chain analysis, we found that teachers in schools where CAL was implemented by the government frequently departed from CAL implementation protocol and replaced normal English classes with CAL, instead of having students use CAL separately during study hall periods. Furthermore, many schools with government-run CAL programs also selected the English teacher (instead of the computer teacher) to supervise CAL. Thus, these English teachers received an additional allowance of 500 RMB per semester for teaching CAL, but were in many cases simply replacing the standard English classes they were supposed to be teaching with CAL sessions--some of which were voluntary for students. Overall, we believe it is likely that effective monitoring may have made the difference in program impact.