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How going to the movies helped Ugandan high schoolers pass their tests

David Evans's picture
Also available in: Français
Phiona Mutesa, the real Queen of Katwe.


Who doesn’t enjoy an afternoon at the movies? Yet sometimes a cinema screening can be more than just fun. An experiment in Uganda demonstrates how an inspiring, relatable figure in a movie can actually help students to pass their math exams.

We all benefit from role models, whether it’s in school, work, or our personal life. A role model shows us how we can be more or achieve more. In Madagascar, a role model (in this case, an “educated person with high income, who grew up in the local school district”) sharing her life story at a school significantly increased students’ test performance. (Notably, the effect only materialized when the role model had come from a poor background, not when she came from a well-off background.) In Uganda, women who work in male-dominated sectors – and subsequently make much more money – point to the importance of role models in showing them they can succeed.