Southwest Basic Education Project (SBEP). Analysis of the Impact of SBEP on Student Achievement


The DFID-funded Southwest Basic Education Project (SBEP) operated during 2006-2010 in 27 of the poorest and most remote counties in southwestern China. The project was designed to improve the Provincial and County governments’ own systems for education support and development and included: stipends for poor students (especially girls and minorities); introduction of School Development Planning (SDP); teacher training on effective support, improved quality and greater relevance of schooling for disadvantaged children; involvement of those children in their own learning; head teacher training; and equity training focusing on the most disadvantaged children.

The SBEP project Goal was: \"Increased and equitable access to high quality basic education in all counties targeted in the Government of China’s Nine Year Compulsory Education Programme in the Western Region.\" Its Project Purpose was: \"To support the Government of China to achieve its goals in basic education, by increasing Government capacity to improve effective programmes that increase equitable access, completion and achievement for the most excluded boys and girls.\"

The Student Achievement Study (SAS) was designed to assess the potential impact of the project interventions on students' performance, especially the performance of disadvantaged children. It aimed to answer three questions:
(i) Whether students in project counties made more progress than those in non-project counties over the project period?
(ii) Whether project interventions had greater impact on disadvantaged students than less disadvantaged students over the project period?
(iii) Could project interventions have a greater impact on disadvantaged students for improved performance in some areas of knowledge than others?
All questions were related to changes of students' performance from where they started at the beginning of the SBEP project to where they ended up 2 years or 4 years after the project interventions. It was assumed that if the project interventions were effective on disadvantaged children, a greater change in performance of disadvantaged than that of not disadvantaged over the project period should be expected, and performance of children in these areas should be improved overall.

The key findings were:

  • Despite having markedly lower average ability scores at the baseline tests, students of all grades in the project counties made significantly more progress than those in the non-project counties by the mid-term and by the end of the project, for both Chinese and Maths, results were similar for boys and girls.
  • Girls of all grades in SDP schools demonstrated a more improved performance in Chinese than girls in non-SDP schools at both mid-term and end of the project, and a small improvement in Maths at the end of project. The same patterns were found from sub-domain analysis.
  • Students with low socio-economic backgrounds of all grades in the SDP schools showed a consistent pattern of greater progress in both Chinese and Maths over the project life than those in the non-SDP schools, with half the estimates of those patterns reaching statistical significance. The same consistent pattern was supported by the sub-domain analysis too.
  • Minority students in SDP schools demonstrated worse progress overall for both subjects except for students in Grade 9 in Maths ; there were similar findings from the sub-domain analysis.
  • There was some weak evidence showing impacts of SDP interventions on improved performance of disabled students to the end of the project though without reaching statistical significance. Positive effects were found among disabled students of Grades 3, 7 and 9, with more estimates of those effects reaching significance level for Chinese sub-domains than for Maths.
  • The SDP interventions did not show sub-domain differentiated impacts on performance of disadvantaged children.

In conclusion, the study has provided evidence to support the positive effects of the SBEP interventions on disadvantaged children in the poorest regions in China. Efficacy of such interventions in the education system appeared measurable by progress of students’ achievement or learning ability.


Yang, Min; Ding, YanQing; Hu, WenBin. Southwest Basic Education Project (SBEP). Analysis of the Impact of SBEP on Student Achievement. Cambridge Education, Cambridge, UK (2012)

Southwest Basic Education Project (SBEP). Analysis of the Impact of SBEP on Student Achievement

Published 1 January 2012