Rewarding Commitment to Attend School: A Field Experiment with Indigenous Australian High School Students

Project dates: 01/02/2012 - 30/09/2016

The project aimed to improve educational outcomes such as attendance rates, effort scores and academia achievement by evaluating the impact of rewarding students conditional on their commitment to achieve specific education targets.

Why is this important?

At the outset of their schooling years, Indigenous children are already at a disadvantage and this only widens over time. Research shows a significant disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian students; not only in relation to participation but also in cognitive and noncognitive outcomes.

The Former Origin Greats (FOGS) ARTIE program combines strong encouragement, in-kind incentives and learning support to improve educational outcomes – academic grades, classroom behaviour and attendance.  In 2012, the program offered symbolic in-kind rewards to all Indigenous students enrolled in the 21 participating high schools, conditional on the achievement of a specific goal defined at the start of each school term, coupled with information sessions on the importance of education.

What did we do?

While traditionally incentives are provided conditional on achievement, this compared two interventions introduced at different schools by FOGS; testing the impact of conditional vs unconditional incentives, as well as introducing the presence of non-binding promises, on students’ effort levels and educational outcomes.

What did we find out?

The program improved both behaviour and academic grades for male and female students and reduced the number of unexplained absences for female students.

  • Promises combined with upfront rewards reduced unexplained absences
  • But it did not change overall school absenteeism
  • Suggests that promises coupled with upfront rewards are effective in influencing behaviour (effort) of students
  • It remains to be investigated how can such incentives be used to improve education outcomes

Funding / Grants

  • Funded by Artie (2012 - 2016)

Chief Investigators