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Reducing the constraints to school access and progress: assessing the effects of a scholarship program in rural Malawi

Stephen Hunsaker (London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK)
Donald R. Baum (Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, USA)
Katy Ducos (Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, USA)

International Journal of Comparative Education and Development

ISSN: 2396-7404

Article publication date: 3 May 2022

Issue publication date: 10 June 2022




The study aims to provide insight on the potential effectiveness of demand-side financing for catalyzing improved educational outcomes in Malawi; and, given the extent of cost-related constraints to school contexts in other low-income countries, the results have relevance for education policy decisions more broadly.


This study utilizes a non-equivalent groups research design to compare the educational experiences and outcomes of two student groups – those who did and those who did not receive a needs-based scholarship to attend secondary school and college in the Dowa, Kasungu, and Lilongwe Districts of Malawi. The authors assess impacts across a range of short and medium-term outcomes, including: school attendance, withdrawal, attainment, graduation, employment status, employment quality, and post-schooling income.


The scholarship substantially reduces the household cost of participation in school, and reduces the distance travelled to school. As a result, scholarship recipients attain between 1 and 1.5 years of additional schooling and graduate at higher rates. In terms of post-schooling outcomes, recipients are in higher wage-earning occupations after leaving school. Overall, results suggest that scholarships are an effective demand-side strategy for improving educational attainment, progression, and potentially longer-term labor market outcomes.


The study adds new evidence on policy approaches for expanding access to educational opportunities and increasing labor market outcomes in a context (Malawi specifically and sub-Saharan Africa more broadly) where evidence on such demand-side interventions is still growing.



Hunsaker, S., Baum, D.R. and Ducos, K. (2022), "Reducing the constraints to school access and progress: assessing the effects of a scholarship program in rural Malawi", International Journal of Comparative Education and Development, Vol. 24 No. 2, pp. 86-100.



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