Measuring up: Gains from education

We’re doing measurement in maths at the moment. Interestingly in Spanish there’s a word for ten centimetres – un decimetro – so before getting to centimetres we are learning that there’s ten decimetros in a metre. Here two of our girls are measuring each other with decimetro sticks.


With a subject like measurement it’s pretty easy to see how the teaching we are doing can improve these kids’ job prospects, and lives. Whether you’re a manual labourer, a shopkeeper, or having reached the dizzying heights of an air-con office, measurement will be important to your work. The same is true of the literacy and numeracy work we do.

Research shows that parents tend to underestimate the gains from primary education. If they’re viewing their family as an economic unit, it’s common for them to pick the child that seems smartest and pay for them to get higher education, rather than to ensure all their kids get primary education. We can’t be sure, but there’s anecdotal evidence that this happens here:

  • Hedgehog‘s little sister has started going to a public school (which has costs for parents), but that’s not something hedgehog was offered when she was younger.
  • One of the preescolars says she has a twin sister who goes to another school and she doesn’t know why.

Actually studies suggest that economic gains from education are roughly constant for each extra year of education. So it’s just as worthwhile to send all your kids to primary school than to push one through to university. Never mind the social consequences of singling out ‘the smart one’.

This is just one of the reasons why we’re so enthusiastic about Mariposas. It provides learning opportunities to kids that might otherwise not have them, to measure things and pass second grade. And it also supports the important social learning that happens in school environments – about sharing and cooperation and winning and losing graciously…. Actually, we’re still working on the winning and losing bit.

Maximising the gains from Mariposas

When the educational gains are real, and the kids are only going to get them from Mariposas, we want them to be the greatest they can be. That’s why we’re asking you to help us fund a qualified teacher to get better systems and support for volunteers in the school and bigger gains for the kids. Please do make a contribution if you can here or by clicking on the widget to the right.

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