Queen of Katwe is a 2016 Disney film based on a book by Tim Crothers of the same name and the true story of Uganda’s Phiona Mutesi and it is certainly making a difference in the lives of a lot of young Ugandans according to a study.

The study which comes from Oxford’s department of economics said that Ugandan students who watched the biopic as little as a week before national exams performed better.

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The results of the study are in keeping with previously researched areas of psychology that show that how students feel, how motivated they are while taking a test can be as important as studying. The goal of this current study had, however, been to examine whether exposure to a role model can inspire that motivation.

Emma Riley the doctorate student who carried out the study measured the motivation of the students by how hard they tried on their exams. The study involved taking 1,500 secondary students in Kampala to the cinema to watch the Queen of Katwe or a placebo film, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (a story about children with supernatural abilities).

Queen of Katwe

The students who were involved in the study watched the films between one week and one month before taking their national qualifying exams. With the results out, those completing their final year of school who watched Queen of Katwe showed an improvement of 0.13 standard deviations from a previous mock exam and were 6 percentage points more likely to get a place at a public university.

Younger students also showed some improvement as they improved their overall scores and were 11 percentage points less likely to fail the math component of their exams.

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The study results also showed that the benefits or the motivation were higher for female students. Part of the conclusions that Riley reached were changes that lower-ranked schools could make to the way students are educated. According to her, they could “place more emphasis on motivation and inspiration through example, to give more meaning to the students of how education can help them to achieve their life goals.”

The gist of the study and its subsequent result is that role models whether on or off screen can have positive influences on students. As Riley says; “The role model does not have to be available in real life to inspire and have a positive effect on students.” There have been other studies that have had similar results.