Links I liked and new research

Links I liked:
As part of project we are doing for the EU/SA Presidency, two RESEP-affiliated researchers – Martin Gustafsson and Stephen Taylor – have published important papers extending our understanding of education in South Africa. The first looks at the spatial distribution of teachers in South Africa and pays special attention to post-provisioning, the recruitment and employment of teachers and how policy can be improved in these areas. The second looks at the impact of treating schools to a new provincial administration, exploiting a change in provincial boundaries that led to some schools ‘moving’ into different provinces.
Teacher supply and the quality of schooling in South Africa. Patterns over space and time” (Gustafsson 2016)
  • The paper addresses policy questions in South Africa’s education system using a newly merged 1999 to 2013 panel of data that includes school enrolments by grade, staff details from the payroll system, examination and test results and the geo-coordinates of schools. This combination of data, which is seldom used, at least in developing countries, permits new and important knowledge about a schooling system to be uncovered. Whilst policy conclusions are South Africa-specific, the methods would be largely transferable to other contexts. It is shown that school data can complement official population data with respect to the monitoring of within-country migration and in determining the rate of urbanisation. An approach for calculating the viability of small schools in a context of migration out of rural areas is presented, using assumptions around maximum distance to be travelled by pupils and the degree to which multi-grade teaching by teachers should be permitted. Cost reductions associated with a reduced presence of small schools, and greater economies of scale associated with larger schools are found to be smaller than what is generally assumed. Correlations between pupil under-performance and the under-staffing of schools are found to be higher at the primary than the secondary level, apparently confirming the greater importance of personal interaction with a teacher for younger pupils. Between-school movements of pupils other than those associated with urbanisation are found to be high, and highly variable across districts. This further complicates the allocation of publicly paid teachers. An approach to gauging whether teachers avoid moving to schools on the other side of provincial boundaries is presented. It is confirmed that movement across provinces, which are the employers of teachers, is restricted, creating further obstacles to efficient teacher allocation. It is confirmed that teachers tend to move to better performing schools, but that the performance signals that influence this movement are often inaccurate and a few years old.”

    Treating schools to a new administration: Evidence from South Africa of the impact of better practices in the system-level administration of schools” (Gustafsson & Taylor, 2016)

  • “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.”
  • I have just discovered John Jerrim’s website. He seems like an extremely prolific scholar and has done loads of research on PISA. As important, he seems to be working closely with education policy makers in the UK.
  • Duration of unemployment in youth transitions from schooling to work in Cape Town” (Mlatsheni & Leibbrandt 2015)
  • “Starting together, growing apart: Gender gaps in learning from preschool to adulthood in four developing countries” (Singh & Krutikova, 2015)
  • Durevall, Lindskog & George (2016) – Three approaches all suggest no impact of secondary school attendance on HIV incidence in South Africa #CSAE2016
  • Nice round up of economic research on Africa from the first day of CSAE s well as Day Two and Three.

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