Links, presentations and new research


Links I liked:
  • The story of Judge Lex Mpati who went from being a petrol attendant after matric to the President of the Supreme Court of Appeal and Chancellor of Rhodes University where he studied (bartending on the side to pay for his studies). Such an inspiration that we have people like this who have gone from the very bottom to the very top.
  • The World Economic Forum (WEF) has a new report out titled “New Vision for Education: Fostering Social and Emotional Learning Through Technology.” (picture above taken from here). Interesting. Would like to see more research on this. (Again I reiterate that there isn’t anyone looking at grit – ala Duckworth – in South Africa).
  • The “What Works Clearinghouse” funded by the US Department of Education is an exceptional piece of scientific wisdom. Reviewing the evidence and coming up with recommendations on “what works” – what a brilliant (and obvious/logical) idea! Anyone in SA want to take this on? 🙂  (Thanks John Aitchison for reminding me of this).
  • NATURE has published a “Twenty tips for interpreting scientific claims” – Great!
  • Great Quartz article taking a behind-the-scenes look at the Hillary Campaign and how Google’s top dog (Eric Schmidt) is funding a startup that provides analytics support.
  • Labyrinth of Lies” (2015) – great German film about prosecuting those responsible for the atrocities at Auschwitz, and this at a time soon after WW2 when key Nazi officials remained in high office in Germany. I watched this on the plane to Vancouver and was particularly moved by the scene where Jewish survivors explain what happened to them at Auschwitz (at the time this wasn’t discussed in Germany). The dialogue goes silent and all you see is the faces of the secretary transcribing the accounts in disbelief.
  • Knight Lab Timeline – Great resource to make Timelines for presentations. Thanks Shelanna Sturgess!

Some presentations I’ve given in the last month:

Some new research

  • Schooling inequality, higher education and the labour market: evidence from a graduate tracer study in the Eastern Cape, South Africa” 2015 article by Michael Rogan and John Reynolds comparing graduates from Fort Hare and Rhodes ABSTRACT: An emerging body of research has shown that there are large inequalities in access to higher education in South Africa. There remains a gap, however, in identifying how factors such as schooling background, academic performance, race and gender are linked with key higher education outcomes. In particular, the significance of these factors for first-choice degree attainment at university and in the subsequent transition to the labour market are of interest. This paper addresses these questions by presenting a descriptive and multivariate analysis of data collected through a tracer study which interviewed graduates from two Eastern Cape universities. The results suggest that schooling history, race and gender are associated with career choice and unemployment. These findings have important implications both for equity and for the efficiency of higher education institutions. The article concludes with a discussion of potential policy responses and the implications for equity in higher education.
  • Learning from Failure: why large government policy initiatives have gone so badly wrong in the past and how the chances of success in the future can be improved” by Sheringold (2015)
  • System-wide improvement of early-grade mathematics: New evidence from the Gauteng Primary Language and Mathematics StrategyB Fleisch, V Schöer, G Roberts, A Thornton – International Journal of Educational Development 2016 ABSTRACT This article reports on a two-year evaluation of the Gauteng Primary Language and Mathematics Strategy (GPLMS), an innovative system-wide reform intervention designed to improve learning outcomes in Gauteng Province, South Africa. Using data from universal testing of all learners in 2008 on a provincial systemic evaluation, as well as data from the 2011, 2012 and 2013 Annual National Assessment tests, this article investigates whether or not the GPLMS improves the numeracy skills of learners in early-grade mathematics in underperforming schools. Using as identification strategy, the natural experiment that resulted from a miscalculation of the provincial systemic evaluation test scores in 2008, which had been used to assign schools to the GPLMS intervention, the study shows that the GPLMS intervention is positively associated with improvements in early-grade mathematics performance of schools in the neighbourhood around the assignment threshold. The findings of the study contribute to the growing body of knowledge that shows the effectiveness of combining lesson plans, learner resources, and quality teacher capacity building.
  • Treating schools to a new administration: Evidence from South Africa of the impact of better practices in the system-level administration of schools M Gustafsson, S Taylor – 2016 ABSTRACT: School examination results are far from ideal measures of progress in schooling systems, yet if analysed with sufficient care these data, which are common in education systems, can serve this purpose. The paper partly deals with how various student selection and year-on-year comparability issues in examinations data can be dealt with. This is demonstrated using South African student-level results, aggregated to the school level, for Grade 12 mathematics in the years 2005 to 2013. This was a period during which provincial boundaries changed, creating a quasi-experiment which is amenable to impact evaluation techniques. Value-added school production functions and fixed effects models are used to establish that movement into a better performing province was associated with large student performance improvements, equal in magnitude to around a year’s worth of progress in a fast improving country. Improvements were not always immediate, however, and the data seem to confirm that substantial gains are only achieved after several years, after students have been exposed to many grades of better teaching. The institutional factors which might explain the improvements are discussed. Spending per student was clearly not a significant explanatory variable. What did seem to matter was more efficient use of non-personnel funds by the authorities, with a special focus on educational materials, the brokering of pacts between stakeholders, including teacher unions, schools and communities, and better monitoring and support by the district office. Moreover, the education department in one province in question, Gauteng, has for many years pursued an approach which is unusual in the South African context, of hiring a substantial number of senior managers within the bureaucracy on fixed term contracts, as opposed to on a permanent basis, the aim being to improve accountability and flexibility at the senior management level.
  • Also, this isn’t new (it’s 2012) but I’ll be buying/ordering this volume ASAP: “Handbook of International Large-Scale Assessment: Background, Technical Issues, and Methods of Data Analysis

2 responses to “Links, presentations and new research

  1. Hi Nic Spaull
    I loved your article on the new public library in Vancouver which I saw on your tweet; it is exceptional. There have been encouraging developments in our own public libraries supported since 2007 by conditional grants from government. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation national country grant is to be launched on 31 March in FS- a project to connect all public libraries. My own interest is in impact assessment of public libraries. I would love to share some of the research I have done with you if you are interested. Kind regards, Mary-

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