New study shows Sesame Street's global impact

Written by witf | May 2, 2013 8:26 AM

Sesame Workshop produces educational shows for pre-school-aged children across the world, and their team of early education specialists works tirelessly to ensure our programs are not only fun but filled with effective lessons about literacy, numeracy and healthy living.

Sesame's research process is the reason the Workshop’s educational material has remained relevant for over 40 years. It’s critical to what the organization does. That’s why they asked Dr. Marie-Louise Mares and Dr. Zhongdang Pan, two independent researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to study the research that has been conducted about Sesame's international programs and conclude for themselves whether or not the programming was effective.

Sesame Workshop is pretty happy with the results. They came back and said the effects of watching the programs resulted in “real educational benefits for the millions of preschool-age children around the world who visit Sesame Street.”

The authors analyzed the results of 24 studies, conducted with over 10,000 children in 15 countries. Their findings indicate significant positive effects of exposure to Sesame Street across a number of learning outcomes: cognitive outcomes (including literacy and numeracy), learning about the world (including health and safety knowledge), and social reasoning and attitudes.

The study showed an average 11.6 percentile difference between viewers and non-viewers (or for the statistics fan: an effect size of 0.29 ). This is comparable to what other researchers found in an evaluation of interventions in which children in developing countries were assigned to attend on-site preschool programs and/or caregivers were trained to provide higher quality care. Through its broadcasts and other distribution mechanisms around the world, however, Sesame Street reaches a vastly larger scale, impacting millions of children daily. The authors of the study described our model as an “enduring example of a scalable and effective early childhood educational intervention.”

Starting with the earliest studies of Sesame Street conducted by the Educational Testing Service in the 1970s, Sesame Street has become the most researched television show in history. A significant body of evidence of the program’s educational value in the United States has emerged. This research shows that the same positive effect we’ve had here in the United States is being seen in countries across the world.

“With programs designed by producers and educational specialists in the countries where we work, our international projects seek to meet the most critical educational needs of children in a given locale,” said Dr. Charlotte F. Cole, Senior Vice President of Global Education at Sesame Workshop. “Research helps us understand children’s changing needs, how media can best address those needs, and most importantly, if the programs are having an effect. We are thrilled to have additional solid evidence that our approach is contributing to early childhood education efforts and supporting early learning around the world.”

To learn more about the results, click here.

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