Jingchun Nie and colleagues conducted a randomised controlled trial to examine the effects of providing free glasses to pupils in a poor rural area of Western China.
In this study, screening and vision testing were provided to 1,974 grade seven and eight (Year 8 and 9) pupils from 31 schools located in northern Shaanxi province in China before they were divided into treatment and control groups. Free glasses were distributed in treatment schools to pupils found to need them, regardless of whether they had a pair of glasses already. In contrast, pupils in the control group solely received a prescription for glasses. The glasses usage of the treatment group increased from 31% at baseline at the start of the school year to 72% at the end of the school year, while that of the control group increased from 28% to 50%.
The study questioned pupils about their academic aspirations, administered a standardised exam using items drawn from a bank of questions developed by the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), and measured the dropout rate to evaluate the intervention. Findings were as follows:
- Among the pupils without glasses at baseline, the provision of glasses increased their maths achievement (effect size = +0.196), while there was no effect on pupils who already had glasses at baseline.
- Providing glasses also increased pupils’ aspiration for attending academic high schools (instead of vocational schools) by 9% on average.
- Providing glasses reduced the rate of dropout by 44% among the pupils who did not own glasses at baseline.
Source: Seeing is believing: Experimental evidence on the impact of eyeglasses on academic performance, aspirations and dropout among junior high school students in rural China (May 2019), Economic Development and Cultural Change DOI: 101086700631