New education research (SA)

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 1.33.10 PMImportant new research article by Stephen Taylor and Marisa von Flintel (2016) titled “Estimating the impact of language of instruction in South African primary schools: A fixed effects approach

“For many children around the world, access to higher education and the labour market depends on becoming fluent in a second language. In South Africa, the majority of children do not speak English as their first language but are required to undertake their final school-leaving examinations in English. Most schools offer mother-tongue instruction in the first three grades of school and then transition to English as the language of instruction in the fourth grade. Some schools use English as the language of instruction from the first grade. In recent years a number of schools have changed their policy, thus creating within-school, cross-grade variation in the language of instruction received in the early grades. Using longitudinal data from the population of South African primary schools and a fixed-effects approach, we find that mother tongue instruction in the early grades significantly improves English acquisition, as measured in grades 4, 5 and 6.”

“A rising number of school leadership changes have been occurring in South African schools as a large proportion of incumbent principals near retirement age. While this presents opportunities to replace weaker school principals with better performing ones, these changes may also destabilise school environments and impede on learning. This paper explores how these principal change events affect school performance in the context of South Africa using a unique administrative dataset constructed by linking payroll data on the population of public school principals to national data on schools and matriculation examination outcomes. Exploiting the panel structure of the data, a school fixed effects strategy suggests that principal changes are indeed detrimental to school performance especially when leadership changes are due to principals exiting the public education system. These results are robust to using an alternative estimation strategy proposed by Heckman, Ichimura and Todd (1997) which combines propensity score matching with a difference-in-difference estimation strategy. The paper also considers two mechanisms through which school leadership changes may impact on school performance, namely through rising promotion rates and teacher turnover”

  • Two new policy briefs released by RESEP (1) “Increasing the supply of teacher graduates” (Hendrik van Broekhuizen) and (2) “Education datasets in South Africa” (Chris van Wyk).

    In the first of these, Hendrik van Broekhuizen describes teacher graduate production in South Africa in the context of existing teacher shortages and finds that universities are still not producing enough teacher graduates  to satisfy the demand for qualified new teachers in South African schools.   Importantly he also stresses the importance of UNISA in the production of new teachers –  between 2008 and 2013 UNISA accounted for half (48%) of all new enrolments in initial teacher education. Despite rising enrolments in teacher training programmes over the past decade, enrolment levels remain low. This is exacerbated by the fact that too few students complete their training programmes and too few new teacher graduates become teachers. His research highlights the need to (1) promote the teaching profession, (2) increase the absorption of new teacher graduates, (3) expand targeted funding for African-language teaching students, and (4) place greater focus on UNISA’s increasingly important role in teacher graduate production.   The full research paper can be found here. The graph below summarises the UNISA situation well…

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