Actually, watching movie helps in the study and improve the performance in exams: a study claims

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NEW DELHI : A recent study by Emma Riley has proven that performance in the exam can improve through exposing children to inspiring movies.

A study conducted by her show that “students in the lower secondary who watched Queen of Katwe had a 30% decrease in the probability of failing their Math exam. Positive effect on scores of female students was larger.”

Moreover, for students taking final secondary school leaving exams, their exam score improved by 0.13 standard deviations. Improvement in test scores at the upper secondary level increased the probability of student attending public university from 30% to 36%. Enrolment from lower secondary to upper secondary also increased.

This study was carried by her in Uganda because she was perplexed by the situation that though the rate of return to investment in education is quite high, i.e. those finishing secondary education with passing grades set to earn 78% more than those with just primary education (Kavuma, 2014), despite this only 35% of those enrolled in secondary school remain in school 4 years later (Ministry of Education and Sports Uganda, 2015). For those who stay in achievement was low.

It is generally believed that low beliefs about the personal returns to education is the major reason behind low continuation and achievement in school. Beliefs affect decisions regarding areas to invest in, including how important education is and thus how much to invest in it (Attanasia and Kaufmann, 2014; Jensen, 2010; Kaufmann, 2014). A person’s belief, in turn, is shaped by different people encountered in daily life (Bandura, 1977). The poor may lack exposure to people who used education to escape poverty. So, the whole community at large remains trapped and does not invest in education, further perpetuating poverty (Genicot and Ray, 2017).

So, according to researchers in such situations “Role Model” can play an important role. They can act as a powerful tool to update beliefs. So, many studies have validated the above premise (Banerjee et al, 2018; Chong and Ferrara, 2009; Kearney and Levine, 2015; La Ferrara et al, 2012). But till now not enough has been done to understand the effect of role model exposure through the market movie.

To check the above hypothesis Emma Riley undertook this through exposure to the movie “Queen of Katwe” (Riley, 2018). Queen of Katwe is based on the true story of Phiona Mutesi who went to school, worked hard and thus turned her fortune from Rags to Riches.

To examine the impact of movie Riley randomly assigned 1500 students preparing to take their national exams at the end of lower and upper secondary school to see either Queen of Katwe or Placebo movie at the cinema. All the children were from private schools in Kampala and equally split between males and females. The placebo movie was used to exclude the beneficial effect on exam performance that might result just from watching cinema.

The results as expected validated her premise and children who watched movie performed better because they could relate with the character, and got carried away as they could feel a deep connection with the character (La Ferrara, 2016). The reach of movies is also wider, it can influence a large number of people at the same time.


1. Kavuma, S (2014), “Private returns to education for the wage-employees and self-employed in Uganda”.

2. Ministry of Education and Sport, Uganda (2015), Education Statistical Abstract.
3. Attanasio, O and K Kaufmann (2014), “Education choices and returns to schooling: Mothers’
and youths’ subjective expectations and their role by gender”, Journal of Development
Economics 109: 203–216.
4. Jensen, R (2010), “The (perceived) returns to education and the demand for schooling”, The
Quarterly Journal of Economics 125(2): 515–548.
5. Kaufmann, K (2014), “Understanding the income gradient in college attendance in Mexico:
The role of heterogeneity in expected returns”, Quantitative Economics 5(3): 583–630.
6. Bandura, A (1977), Social Learning Theory, General Learning

7. Genicot, G and D Ray (2017), “Aspirations and inequality”, Econometrica 85(2): 489–519.
8. Banerjee, A, E La Ferrara, E and V Orozco (2018), “The entertaining way to behavioral
change: Fighting HIV with MTV”.
9. Chong, A and E Ferrara (2009), “Television and divorce: Evidence from Brazilian
Novelas”, Journal of the European Economic Association 7(2–3)" 458–468.
10. Jensen, R and E Oster (2009), “The power of TV: Cable television and women’s status in
India”, The Quarterly Journal of
Economics 124(3): 1057–1094.
11. Kearney, M and P Levine (2015), “Media influences on social outcomes: The Impact of MTV’s
16 and pregnant on teen childbearing”, American Economic Review 105(12): 3597–3632.
12. La Ferrara, E, A Chong and S Duryea (2012), “Soap operas and fertility: Evidence from
Brazil”, American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 4(4): 1–31.
13. Riley, E (2018), “Role models in movies: The impact of Queen of Katwe on students’
educational attainment”.

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