Category Archives: Uncategorized

Reading to some purpose


  • If I had to recommend one book that could change the way you view the world, “Seeing Like a State” would be it. Sociology, Political Science, History and Economics all wrapped into one compelling explanation of the world that we see. Taking a month off to digest this would be an excellent use of almost anyone’s time IMHO.
  • Fascinating LRB article reviewing “Empire of Tea: The Asian Leaf that Conquered the World.” Another amazing LRB article shows a breadth of knowledge that is absolutely astounding. From Weber and Durkheim to Israel, Gorbachev and Confucianism. A long but satisfying read!
  • Social Foundations of Education” 2011 University of Michigan course outline by Ball and Cohen. Looks like an incredible course.
  • Word of the week: ‘Nomenklatura‘ “a select list or class of people from which appointees for top-level government positions are drawn, especially from a Communist Party”
  • Important new (2015) research article “Teacher Supply in South Africa: A Focus on Initial Teacher Education Graduate Production” by RESEP’s Hendrik van Broekhuizen. Exhaustive. Meticulous. Important. My take home point is that we win or lose the initial teacher education battle with UNISA!
  • Dr Linda Zuze writes an interesting article “Desperate to be Digital” where she unpacks a demand from COSAS “We must get tablets just like the Chinese students.” Also  see the BBC article “Computers ‘do not improve’ pupil results, say OECD.” I am a little wary of these bivariate scatter-plot type comparisons of countries that do well and also a bunch of other things and then saying that those things cause the good performance, but nevertheless an interesting article.
  • There’s a new book by Hanushek and Woessman (2015) titled “The Knowledge Capital of Nations” – see Lant Pritchett’s review here (thanks Elbie!)
  • “Is our determination to achieve excellence in reading skills in our children killing their love and enjoyment of a good book?” This is the question asked by Ryan Spencer in his article “Reading teaching in schools can kill a love of books” (via Lilli Pretorius). Also see this article by Donalyn Miller titled “Cultivating Wild Readers” (via Sarah Murray)
  • An article from a month ago on DBE-SADTU relations by Leanne Jansen that some might of missed: “Motshekga said Sadtu was “more bullish” in the Eastern Cape because of the “culture of chaos” in that province, and within its education department. “Corruption plays a major role in destabilising the sector. Structures like Sadtu don’t create problems for the sake of creating problems. “It’s about patronage, access to government tenders … It’s deeper than being disruptive for the sake of being disruptive … It is leadership in provincial education departments to a large extent. There is Sadtu in the Western Cape, why is it not behaving the way it is behaving in the Eastern Cape?
  • Corrupting Learning: Evidence from Missing Federal Education Funds in Brazil” -via John Aitchison

Goodbye for now South Africa


I am currently sitting in JFK airport en-route to San Francisco and drinking 4 espressos to re-align my internal clock and stay awake until a reasonable hour. So I suppose this is a good time to fill everyone in on my plans for the next year and a half. From now until the end of 2015 I will be a Visiting Scholar at the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University in California. I’ll be taking some courses while I’m here and also finish up our (RESEP’s) ‘Binding Constraints in Education’ project which we’re currently doing for the SA Presidency and the E.U. Needless to say I’m really excited to be spending time at Stanford and I do intend to blog about my experience here.

The second piece of exciting news is that I’ve been awarded the OECD’s Thomas J Alexander Fellowship for 2016. That means I’ll be working on PISA data and focussing on developing countries. The broad aim is to find meaningful ways of integrating access (enrolment) and quality (learning) in education, along the lines of my earlier work on sub-Saharan Africa. I’ll be based at the OECD headquarters in Paris from January until July next year and then back at Stanford for the last 4 months of 2016.

As much as I have loved my time in South Africa to date I am also ready to get some international perspective and work on other developing countries for a while. There are 2 main reasons for this. In order of priority: (1) I think that many developing countries are experimenting with bold and innovative reforms with long-term strategic leadership, something that is sorely lacking in South Africa where it often feels like we are simply tweaking things at the margin. I want to understand what they are doing, what’s working and how they got it going. I am especially interested in the Brazilian case. (2) It’s not a wonderful feeling when some people you are trying to help – in this case the South African educational bureaucracy – portray you as part of the problem when in fact you are trying to help. I know that parts of the Department are open to research, and I have been encouraged by two recent speeches by the Minister of Basic Education, but there is a clear hostility towards those of us in the research community that highlight to the public just how bad the situation really is. I still do not believe that the powers that be understand the true severity of the crisis in education, because if they did we would not be continuing with things in a business-as-usual way. A massive crisis like the one we have requires pretty radical solutions. (As an aside, at the VW Foundation colloquium last week I was encouraged to hear the Minister using the word ‘crisis’ on more than one occasion in her speech – let’s hope that the reforms that are implemented are commensurate with this acknowledgement). The Minister has told us (researchers) that we are on the same page and that we all agree on the problems. Now that may or may not be true, but unless the conclusion is a radical overhaul of the most dysfunctional 30% (?) of our schools, I don’t know that we are on the same page. In these schools there is next to no learning taking place at all, as evidenced by abysmal educational outcomes. Such an overhaul would be costly – financially and politically – but it would send a strong signal that we simply cannot go on in a business as usual way.

Maybe all of the above is par for the course and reform always takes a long time. Perhaps it couldn’t be any other way, I don’t know. Either way I needed a change of perspective and time to think about bigger-picture solutions in S.A., sub-Saharan Africa and the developing world more generally. I also need time and space to figure out what I want to spend my life doing and the kind of person I want to become.

To get perspective you need a break, so I won’t be commenting on all the educational issues in South Africa while I’m away.

I think that my blog may also take on a more personal note as I explore some of the broader, non-immediate issues in education, and in my own life.

Onwards and upwards…


Some links and updates before leaving :)


Before leaving I thought It would be a good idea to do a bit of a ‘brain-dump’ on my blog to update everyone on the things that I know about in the South African education space. Some of these might be very well known but I imagine some of them are less well known. In any event I think it’ll be helpful. If you know of any other ‘useful-to-know-about’ projects please include them in the comments to this post. And just for shits and giggles I’ve included some GIFs :)

  • The matric pass rate will drop this year. You just need to look at the gigantic matric cohort that we have this year – in fact, if my calculations are correct it is *the* biggest matric cohort we have ever had! One can only conclude that this is because of the automatic-progression law that’s now being applied to the FET phase. There are 687,230 students enrolled in matric this year, compared to 571,819 last year. Enough said.

ear dear

  • Speaking of matric, let’s briefly touch on the perennial no-brainer that is always politicized and therefore scrapped – testing prospective matric markers. Every year the Minister says prospective matric markers will need to write a competency test prior to being appointed and every year SADTU opposes it and it’s scrapped at the last minute. This article of mine from 2013 is just as true today as it was then, unfortunately. I think this is a good litmus-test of whether the Minister or the new DG mean business. If the research shows that many teachers lack basic content knowledge of the subjects they are teaching and marking – and it definitely does – then we need to be asking why prospective markers are not required to prove they can assess accurately? (except in the Western Cape where testing prospective matric markers has been in place for many years already).

excellent question

  • We now have a new Director General of Basic Education, Mr Mweli. This position has been essentially vacant (i.e. no permanent DG) for more than a few years now. It will be very interesting to see what he chooses to prioritise in his time as DG.

hmm very interesting

  • The results of the SACMEQ 2013 (Gr6) national testing and the TIMSS-Numeracy 2014 (Gr5) study should be released soon. As an aside South Africa is seriously thinking about taking part in PISA-for-Development in 2017 which will be great – more on that in the future (I’m working at PISA next year). The SACMEQ 2013 results are very important. I am really looking forward to seeing what they show.

kittens looking

  • The for-profit sector will continue to grow rapidly in South Africa in the coming decade, largely because the majority of public schools are dysfunctional. The ‘low-fee’ sector will grow the fastest as entrepreneurs and investors see the potential for huge growth and massive returns (with or without State subsidies).

a dollar makes me holler

  • See my presentation to the IEB on for-profit schooling in SA here. To give you an idea about the growth of Curro students/schools, for example, see the graph below:


that escalated quickly

  • Nick Taylor, one of the education champions in South Africa, is pushing ahead with his Initial Teacher Education Research Project (ITREP) – see here. It aims to identify to what extent we are producing teachers who are better able to address the challenges of schooling. The initial results have found especially damning results for university’s existing teacher training programs. Hopefully the positive energy and attention will lead to reform. Nick is also involved in a cool (and important) project aimed at creating communities of practice for Primary numeracy and literacy researchers in South Africa. Both of which show serious promise.


  • The education technology space in South Africa (and in the world generally) is booming. Billions of Rands have been allocated to technology in both Gauteng and the Western Cape. I have been meaning to write an article about this for a long time but haven’t got around to it yet unfortunately. In light of this move we would all do well to read this chapter “Computers in schools: Why governments should do their homework.” But we will go around the mountain one more time and check for ourselves. Because how do you know if it’s a dead-end until you’ve tried it?


  • Well, maybe because everyone else tried to do exactly what we are proposing to do and it didn’t work? If you’re not teaching teachers how to use the tech (and doing it properly in a hands-on, in-classroom way), budgeting for maintenance and most importantly evaluating the project (to figure out if it’s actually working) then it’s pretty much doomed to fail. As they say in the chapter above “The evidence so far is quite persuasive that programs that overlook teacher training and the development of software may yield low returns” (p169). Importantly we should be asking where these budgets are coming from. Is it wise to be spending billions in untested, unevaluated technology when we still have 500,000 disabled students out of school? (see my presentation to SANASE AGM here).  I’m all for using tech in meaningful ways but this isn’t that, this is basically “Let them eat iPads.” (also see this NYT article, “Can you have too much tech?“).

got any other bad ideas (stark)

  • On a positive note there is a really important Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) currently underway in the North West, Kudos to the DBEStephen Taylor, Brahm Fleisch, Nompumelelo Moholwane and their team for initiating this one. See here for a write-up about it. It’s basically trying to find the best way of teaching reading in the early grades, testing alternatives against each other to find the one with the biggest impact and the most-effective alternative. For those not familiar with the RCT methodology, read this document written for the UK Parliament. I am really looking forward to the results from this study. They have important ramifications for how we ‘teach’ early grade reading in South Africa.


And then some of my ‘usual’ links:

  • Presentations from our Quantitative Research in Education conference. Many of these papers have been developed into full articles and will be available in a special issue of the SAJCE –Priorities and Policy-making in South African Education – which should be out later this year. In the mean time I would strongly recommend going through Gabrielle Wills’ presentation on the principal labour-market in South Africa. She estimates that due to the ageing profile of principals that there will be 7000 principal replacements between 2012 and 2017 in South Africa. That’s enormous.

idea explosion

hell to the no

  • The Auditor General of South Africa has released their special report on the Education Sector in South Africa – see here.
  • One school in California has decided to ban grade-based promotion and has moved to a performance/competence criteria for promotion. Interesting, innovative, forward-thinking. More of this please…
  • The New York Public Library has put 20,000 high-res images of maps online and makes them free to download (via Kelsey).
  • Before deciding on your opinion about racism (or the lack thereof) at Stellenbosch University (or the Open Stellenbosch movement) watch this 30-minute documentary about the experiences of 32 black students at the University. My thoughts on this: (1) The current pace of transformation is too slow, (2) the current culture at the University is experienced as exclusionary by Black students, (3) While not its explicit aim, the current language policy at SU has the effect of excluding many Black students from quality higher education (in a country where such quality higher education is rare), (4) these issues will not go away until deep, meaningful and sustained reforms (which will be difficult) are implemented at the University, (5) disciplinary hearings and expulsions for protesting students is *totally* the wrong approach to deal with this (one wonders who is advising those in management?!). Watch the documentary for yourself and let me know what you think…

stellenbosch graduation photo

Some presentations I’ve given in the last 2 months:

That’s all for now.


Im outta here

Start where you are, with what you have…


This is perhaps the most important document to come out of the Department of Basic Education in a long time; Action Plan to 2019: Towards the Realisation of Schooling 2030. Although we are regularly faced with much depressing information on the state of education in South Africa, reports like this give me hope that there are some excellent people working in the department, thinking strategically and working within the existing constraints. It is not delusional, the goals are (mostly) realistic, and it charts a clear path to get to where we want to go from where we are.

Education people far and wide – read this, quote it, refer to it and hold the Department to these plans!

“SADTU selling principals’ posts in exchange for cows, sheep and goats” (CityPress article)

I don’t usually repost articles on education but if these allegations are true – and Prof John Volmink’s report should identify if they are – then we really need decisive action from Motshekga or Zuma or someone who actually has power. This is a deal-breaker. You cannot have SADTU running provinces and calling the shots while children suffer as a result.


“Pretoria – Rogue members of teachers’ union Sadtu have “captured” a key provincial education department, which officials in Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga’s office say is now on the “verge of collapse”.

Investigators appointed by Motshekga to probe the jobs-for-cash racket run by union officials, which City Press exposed last year, have found that Sadtu members have “infiltrated that department and run a complex patronage system” in KwaZulu-Natal.

An investigation commissioned by Motshekga’s office and headed by Professor John Volmink has found that not only is education in KwaZulu-Natal being run by rogue union members, but Sadtu members have been found to have violated the system in the provincial education departments of Gauteng, North West, the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.

On Monday, Motshekga met KwaZulu-Natal education MEC Peggy Nkonyeni and senior officials in her department at OR Tambo International Airport to discuss the crisis.

A senior department official said the provincial department had “collapsed; there is no leadership”.

What investigators found

Other allegations Volmink’s team of 10 investigators uncovered around the country include:

. Evidence that a number of senior Sadtu members in the Eastern Cape have received cows, sheep and goats as payment for several principals’ positions throughout the province;

. That an applicant for a principal post at a Gauteng school approached his district director and showed him an SMS which proved Sadtu officials tried to extort R25 000 out of him in return for the job; and

. A Sadtu official in Limpopo’s Mopani district committed suicide after failing to secure two principal posts for teachers who had paid him R25 000 each. He killed himself after they demanded their money back.

In KwaZulu-Natal they found:

. Sadtu officials demanding that union members be appointed to 37 chief education specialist posts. Union officials insisted the department reduce the educational requirements for the posts from degrees to teaching diplomas;

. Sadtu officials have earmarked candidates to fill 15 senior managerial positions in the Ugu district in Port Shepstone;

. A Sadtu leader who is a junior teacher in the Ethekwini North region became the principal of a large school with two deputy principals in the Ilembe district after falsifying a letter of appointment;

. A senior Sadtu official in Ethekwini North illegally swapped positions with a principal of a large school in Ilembe. The “gentlemen’s deal” was struck because principals of large schools earn much more than those who run smaller schools; and

. Evidence that a school governing body member of a Pinetown school acted with Sadtu members to extort R30 000 from a teacher who had applied for the job of principal.

KZN on the verge of collapse

On Thursday, officials from the basic education department’s legal department were sent to Durban to meet senior provincial officials. Senior department sources with knowledge of the meeting said the lawyers “read the riot act to their provincial counterparts asking them to rein in Sadtu”.

Another official said: “They were very harsh on them, asking why they had not acted on Sadtu’s anarchy over the past two weeks.”

Over the past two weeks, pupils at 440 schools in the Ilembe region on the north coast and 485 schools in Ugu region on the south coast have received little teaching after regional union leaders ordered teachers to protest at district offices.

The teachers, who play loud music and disrupt work at the offices, aim to get rid of the directors.

The protest is set to intensify this week in the Ilembe region, where an unsigned notice from the office of the secretary of Sadtu’s Ethekwini North region – which was sent to members on Friday – states that all members should conduct sit-ins at district offices on Monday and shut down schools completely on Tuesday.

Three sources in the department told City Press that Ilembe district director Thembinkosi Vilakazi was visited by three Sadtu leaders from the Ethekwini North region in August last year. They demanded that she appoint them as chief education specialists in her three circuit offices in Stanger, Ndwedwe and KwaMaphumulo.

“They asked to talk to her and told her she was a comrade and should co-operate with them. They said they were prepared to support her and defend her from her enemies, but only if she gave them the positions. She told them things didn’t work like that and she couldn’t fix positions. She told them the fixing of positions was illegal and was corruption.”

He said the three told Vilakazi that if she did not agree to the deal, they would make her stay at the district miserable.

Vilakazi refused to comment.

Another senior KwaZulu-Natal official said that, while Sadtu had claimed Ugu district director Mfundo Sibiya was unfit to lead, what was at issue were the 15 senior positions advertised in the district.

“The department has endorsed interviewing panels given by Sadtu. Where have you ever seen that? Sadtu asked him to change certain people in the interviewing panels, but he refused,” said the official.

“One of the people they want, a Sadtu leader, is not even shortlisted.” Sibiya refused to comment.

Sadtu denies claims

Sadtu’s provincial secretary, Dolly Caluza, said the protests at Ilembe and Ugu had nothing to do with positions.

“There are issues our leaders are raising with the department and some of them date back to 2011. We are protesting about norms and standards and the allocation of teachers. Teachers are overworked and there is animosity because teachers are overworked,” she said.

Caluza accused Vilakazi of failing to attend meetings to resolve labour issues. She denied the protests were about positions.

Sadtu’s national secretary, Mugwena Maluleke, said anyone with evidence of corruption should approach Volmink’s team with evidence.

“One district director in KwaZulu-Natal made allegations – we asked him to submit evidence and he still hasn’t. If they don’t, it will appear that they want to run away from their responsibilities, and use Sadtu’s name to do that. People should be exposed if they are corrupt,” said Maluleke.

Directors fight back

Eight of KwaZulu-Natal’s 12 district directors met in Pietermaritzburg last week and agreed to approach Nkonyeni and Premier Senzo Mchunu to protect them from being intimidated by Sadtu members and the union’s grip on the department.

Sources close to the meeting told City Press that if Nkonyeni and Mchunu did not respond, the directors would appeal to Motshekga and President Jacob Zuma.

One director, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “Sadtu is running the department. We have resolved to take the fight to Sadtu. We want support from the premier and the MEC. We need support from the department of education; they must use their power to support us.

“Sadtu doesn’t give a f*** about our children’s education. Education is under siege; it is in the hands of syndicates. The ANC has to pronounce on this; we have reached the crossroads.”

Trouble brews over big jobs

Motshekga’s team’s visit comes as trouble brews over 37 chief education specialist posts.

Three senior officials close to the matter told City Press several provincial Sadtu leaders had publicly stated in meetings they had already allocated the positions to some of their members.

A senior official, who did not want to be named, said: “Sadtu wants the positions, saying they met with head of department Nkosinathi Sishi and persuaded him to advertise the positions.

“They said they would decide who was appointed. They have a list across the province.”

Three senior officials told City Press that when the positions were advertised in August last year, the prerequisite for candidates was a university degree.

But because most of Sadtu’s favoured candidates did not have degrees, the advertisement was withdrawn and the requirements were amended to a diploma.

The posts were re-advertised in March. Caluza denied the union had objected to district directors chairing interviewing panels of the 37 chief education specialist positions.

“We have not objected to directors chairing interviewing panels. We don’t decide who chairs panels, we only observe. Our role is to observe.”

KwaZulu-Natal education department spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said the department was concerned about the disruption of classes at Ilembe and Ugu.

“We are engaging the leadership of Sadtu. We have already held three meetings with them. The engagements are so that the right of the child to learn can be protected. We have issued a circular that empowers principals to deal with teachers who are not at school.”

He said the province was confident that things would improve this week.”


From here.

Open Stellenbosch: “Tackling language and exclusion at Stellenbosch University”

(The article below was written by the Open Stellenbosch collective and published in the City Press this Sunday the 26th of April 2015, and is also available on Daily Maverick). I’ve written about this topic myself and feel quite strongly that not enough is being done to diversify the staff and student bodies at Stellenbosch and particularly in changing the culture at the University, hence posting the article here.

“Tackling language and exclusion at Stellenbosch University”

– Open Stellenbosch


“Many in South Africa are aware of the RhodesMustFall movement at UCT, and the problems of institutional racism it has highlighted. These problems are deeply entrenched at Stellenbosch University, where Open Stellenbosch was created to challenge the hegemony of white Afrikaans culture and the exclusion of black students and staff. Open Stellenbosch is a movement of predominantly black students and staff at the University who refuse to accept the current pace of transformation.

In 2013, only 3.5% of all professors at the University were black, while 86% were white. In fact, there are more professors named ‘Johan’ than there are black professors at our institution. Is this really what transformation looks like 20 years after Apartheid?

The fact that we as black students on campus have to take matters into our own hands to change the oppressive institutional culture at Stellenbosch is an indictment of the University management. We do not believe that those in the SRC, the Senate or the Council understand the weight of normalised oppression that we experience at this overtly white University.

Although our institution claims that “continuous transformation is part of the core being of the University”, this could not be further from our everyday reality at Stellenbosch. We are tired of empty promises and goals that are perpetually postponed. We have been having these conversations for over a decade now, and it is clear that the management at Stellenbosch has been operating in bad faith. Many promises, little action. There was the “Strategic Framework” of 1999, the “Vision 2012” document of 2000, the “Transformation Strategy” of 2008, the “Overarching Strategic Plan” of 2009, the “Quality Development Plan”, the “Employment Equity Plan”, the “Diversity Framework”, and so it goes on. These have all failed because of a wholesale lack of political will to implement them – both then and now.

Although there are many things that need to change at Stellenbosch University, as a matter of urgency we are calling for the following:

  1. No student should be forced to learn or communicate in Afrikaans and all classes must be available in English.
  2. The institutional culture at Stellenbosch University needs to change radically and rapidly to reflect diverse cultures and not only White Afrikaans culture.
  3. The University publically needs to acknowledge and actively remember the central role that Stellenbosch and its faculty played in the conceptualisation, implementation and maintenance of Apartheid.

Every day students and staff who do not understand Afrikaans are excluded from learning and participating at Stellenbosch University. As black students we are frequently asked, “Why do you come here if you can’t speak Afrikaans?” This question highlights the pervasive and problematic sense of ownership that some have over this University. Stellenbosch – like all universities – is a public institution. This is not an Afrikaans university. It is a South African university which offers instruction in Afrikaans and (to a lesser extent) English.

We have personally experienced countless instances of this institutional racism, including being forced to ask our Afrikaans-speaking peers to interpret what “Huiskomitee” members are saying in residence meetings. When we are allocated rooms, we are intentionally paired with other black students. Initiation at our residences involves explicit racism, homophobia and intimidation. It’s telling that we actively discourage our black school-leaving friends from considering Stellenbosch as a place to study. This is in an attempt to spare them the pain and humiliation of being silently subjugated by a passively hostile culture of white Afrikanerdom.

These exclusionary practices are not limited to students only. Some academics are forced to sit through meetings conducted in Afrikaans where they do not understand anything and yet are required to be there. These norms help explain why black faculty find Stellenbosch to be a hostile environment that privileges white Afrikaans culture. This privileging is most obviously reflected in the racial composition of teaching staff at the University (see graphic).

Is this what transformation looks like (3) (April 2015)

The University and its management will no doubt issue new statements, new speeches, new plans. This week we will read the latest reincarnation of a “Transformation Plan” with the Rector promising that this time it will be different. We are not interested in superficial gestures of goodwill. We want to see an end to Afrikaans-only classes. We want our University to represent our cultures as well. We want to be taught by more black faculty. After years of empty promises and hollow commitments, we no longer trust what you say. Speak to us with your actions because your words will fall on deaf ears, as ours have for over a decade.”


Open Stellenbosch can be found on Twitter @OpenStellies and on Facebook at “Open Stellenbosch

An Introduction to Quantitative Data Analysis for Researchers in Education (8-12 June)


An Introduction to Quantitative Data Analysis for Researchers in Education

Stellenbosch University  |  8 – 12 June 2015


The aim of the “Introduction to Quantitative Data Analysis for Researchers in Education” course is to provide educational researchers with basic quantitative skills needed to interact with large-scale datasets in education. Although South Africa participates in a number of cross-national studies of educational achievement, few South African researchers possess the requisite quantitative skills needed to use these datasets (or others) in meaningful ways. This is problematic given that it is now widely acknowledged, both locally and internationally, that there is a serious need for education research that combines both qualitative and quantitative insights. It is for this reason that the course is primarily aimed at faculty and graduate students in education departments at South African universities. Other education researchers (from NGOs, think-tanks, policy forums) are also welcome to apply[1].

The course is intended to provide participants with a conceptual understanding of basic statistical procedures for quantitatively exploring and understanding data using a range of real-world data sets. The course introduces participants to measures of central tendency (mean, median, mode), non-central tendency (percentiles, quartiles, deciles etc.), and distribution (variance, standard deviation, inter-quartile range). Participants will learn how to calculate these statistics in STATA and also how to create graphs and tables that describe education data. The aim is always to equip participants with the skills needed to create their own graphs, tables and statistics in STATA and to interpret them accurately for their own purposes. All lectures and practicals will use South African education data, including SACMEQ, PIRLS, TIMSS, ANA and matric, as well as some administrative data (EMIS).

The course will be from 9am to 4:30pm each day from 8-12 June 2015 and will be held at Stellenbosch University. Each day there will be two interactive lectures and one extended practical session in STATA. No prior knowledge of STATA is necessary and participants need not have their own STATA license. The course will be held at a computer lab at Stellenbosch University and all computers will have STATA installed on them. The lecturers for the course will be Nic Spaull and Servaas van der Berg assisted by other ReSEP researchers.


The aim of the course is to take participants that have a basic understanding about statistics (means, frequencies, percentages etc.) and to help them to answer the following questions:

  • What is a standard deviation and how does one use and interpret it?
  • What is a standard error and how does it relate to a confidence interval?
  • What is a median? a mode? a percentile?
  • How does one decide how large a sample needs to be?
  • What is the difference between correlation and causation?
  • When can we say that one thing causes something else?
  • How do you create and interpret graphs in STATA? Including histograms, line charts, stacked bar charts, scatterplots, boxplots and kernel densities?

By the end of the course participants should be familiar enough with STATA and the basic concepts of descriptive statistics that they can generate and interpret graphs and tables in STATA by themselves. They should also have a basic understanding of the major educational datasets in South Africa (PIRLS, TIMSS, SACMEQ) and be able to answer their own questions using these datasets.


All costs for the course (including the course-fee, course-materials, transport to Stellenbosch and accommodation in Stellenbosch) will be covered by the PSPPD programme.


To apply to attend the course, please send an email to with your CV and a brief motivation as to why you think the course will be beneficial to you and your research (maximum 1-page). Please make the subject line of your email “PSPPD Data Analysis course” and indicate if you will be requiring transport to, and accommodation in, Stellenbosch and which city you will be coming from. There are limited spaces available (approximately 30) and preference will be given to senior faculty and PhD students, although masters students are also encouraged to apply.


If there are any applicants with special learning needs please indicate this on your application and we will do our best to accommodate your needs. We encourage you to liaise with us and the Office for Students with Special Learning Needs (OSSN) at Stellenbosch University.

Deadline for applications: 30th April 2015.

[1] We will be running a separate, but similar, course for education policy makers later in the year. Any interested individuals should please contact us at


The PDF version of this call for applications can be downloaded here.