Free Eyeglasses Improve Student Math Scores

Bottom Line: Providing free eyeglasses through a hospital-based vision center to students in rural China with poor vision helped to improve student math scores.

Why The Research Is Interesting: Many children in rural China with poor vision, mostly due to nearsightedness, don’t own or wear eyeglasses, largely because of a lack of access to vision care services.

Who and When: 2,613 children evaluated from 31 primary schools in Yongshou County, a nationally designated poor county in rural China; clinical trial conducted during 2014-2015

What (Study Interventions and Outcomes): A vision center was set up in the local government hospital of Yongshou; school-based vision screenings by teachers at the beginning of the school year identified 1,200 students with poor vision; those students received either early (in the middle of the school year) or late (at the end of school year) referral to the vision center for eye exams and free glasses as needed. All students were given a standardized math test at the beginning of the school year and the primary outcome was performance on an end-of-year math test.

How (Study Design): This was a randomized clinical trial (RCT). RCTs allow the strongest inferences to be made about the true effect of an intervention. However, not all clinical trial results can be replicated in real-world settings because patient characteristics or other variables may differ from those studied.

Authors: Yaojiang Shi, PhD, Center for Experimental Economics in Education, Shaanxi Normal University, China, and colleagues.

Results: Students who got eyeglasses earlier in the school year did better on an end-of-year math test than children who got their eyeglasses later in the school year.

Study Limitations: The study included just one county in China and it did not calculate program costs or perform any other economic modeling.

Study Conclusions: 


For more details and to read the full study, please visit the For The Media website.