Teaching Applied Economics of Education (2018)

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This semester I’ll be teaching half of the Applied Economics of Education course offered to graduate students in the economics department at Stellenbosch University. The course starts this week Wednesday 25 July (lectures 3-5pm) and I will be teaching for 6 weeks (i.e. 6 lectures and some tutorials). The aim of the course is to expose some of our graduate students to the applied work we do on education in SA, particularly at RESEP, and also to the researchers who are doing that work (many of whom will be at the lectures as well). For that reason many of the prescribed readings are written by RESEP researchers. Some of our PhD students who will be taking the course are based in Durban and Johannesburg and will be joining the lectures via Google Hangouts.  I’m quite keen to include some people from outside the Economics department, from other universities and even from outside universities all together.  While some of the readings and discussions are technical, the majority of the course is not. If you would like to audit the course (either in person or online) please send me an email with a one paragraph description of why you’d like to take the course and attach your CV before Wednesday 25 July. There is space for up to 15 auditors.

An overview of the six lectures is included below and the full course outline is available here.

[1] An overview of the South African education system

The aim of this lecture is to provide an overview of the South African education system. For those who are not from South Africa please read the first four chapters of the Fiske & Ladd (2004) book and the Van der Berg & Hofmeyr (2018) article to familiarize yourself with the SA context.

Required readings:

  1. Spaull, N. (2018). Equity: A price too high to pay? In Spaull, N. & Jansen, J. (eds): South African Schooling: The Enigma of Inequality. Springer.
  2. Van der Berg, S., Spaull, N., Wills, G., Gustafsson, M. & Kotzé, J. (2016). Identifying binding constraints in education. Stellenbosch: Research on Socio-economic Policy. Available from: <http://resep.sun.ac.za&gt; [Accessed May 2016].

Additional readings:

  1. (Policy) Gustafsson, M. (2018). Pursuing change through policy in the schooling sector 2007-2017. In Spaull, N. & Jansen, J. (eds): South African Schooling: The Enigma of Inequality. Springer.
  2. Fiske, E. & Ladd, H. (2004) Elusive Equity: Education reform in post-apartheid South Africa. HSRC Press; Brookings Institution Press. Washington DC.
  3. Mweli, M. (2018). Basic Education’s Role in Tackling Poverty. Basic Education Matters (2018: 1). Journal of the Department of Basic Education.
  4. Van Wyk, C. (2015). An overview of key data sets in education in South Africa. South African Journal of Childhood Education. 2015 5(2) 146-170.
  5. Van der Berg, S. & Hofmeyr, H. (2018). Background note on Education in South Africa. An Incomplete Transition: Overcoming the Legacy of Exclusion in South Africa. World Bank.

[2] Sampling, assessment and trends over time

Much of the economics of education involves analyzing sample-based surveys of educational inputs and learning outcomes. Of particular importance are the three international assessments South Africa participates in which are the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS, Grade 9 Maths and Science conducted in 1995, 1999, 2003, 2011 and 2015), the Southern and Eastern African Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ, Grade 6 reading and mathematics conducted in 2000, 2007 and 2013), and the Progress in International Reading and Literacy Study (PIRLS, Grade 4/5; conducted in 2006, 2011 and 2016). This session covers issues of inter-temporal comparability, how surveys sample schools, representivity, basic statistical concepts in sampling, interpreting results from cross-national surveys and some of the literature that has looked at this issues in SA and sub-Saharan Africa.

Required readings:

  1. (SACMEQ) Ross, K., Saito, M., Dolata, S., Ikeda, M., Zuze, L., Murimba, S., Postlethwaite, N., & Griffin, P. (2005). The Cconduct of the SACMEQ II project. Chapter 2 in The SACMEQ II Project in Kenya: A Study of the Conditions of Schooling and the Quality of Education: Kenya Working Report. SACMEQ Educational Policy Research Series.
  2. (*) Chapters 1-4 of the Handbook of International Large-Scale Assessment: Background, Technical Issues, and Methods of Data Analysis (Rutkowski, L., von Davier, M., & Rutkowski, D., (eds).
  3. (Outcomes) Van der Berg, S. & Gustafsson, M. (2018). Educational outcomes in post-apartheid South Africa: Signs of progress despite great inequality. In Spaull, N. & Jansen, J. (eds): South African Schooling: The Enigma of Inequality. Springer.

Additional readings:

  1. (Access and quality) Spaull, N., and Taylor, S., (2015). Access to what? Creating a composite measure of educational quantity and educational quality for 11 African countries. Comparative Education Review. Vol. 58, No. 1.; Taylor, S., and Spaull, N. (2015). Measuring access to learning over a period of increased access to schooling: the case of Southern and Eastern Africa since 2000. International Journal of Educational Development. Vol. 41 (March) pp47-59; Lilenstein, A. (2018). Integrating Indicators of Education Qunatity and Quality in Six Francophone African Countries. Stellenbosch Economic Working Papers WP 09/2018. Stellenbosch.
  2. Spaull, N. 2012. SACMEQ at a glance series. Research on Socioeconomic Policy (RESEP). (Online). Available: http://resep.sun.ac.za/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Spaull-2012-SACMEQ-at-a-Glance-10-countries.pdf [Accessed: 12 July 2018]
  3. Any of the recent South African reports on either TIMSS or SACMEQ
    1. (TIMSS Gr5) Isdale, K., Reddy, V., Juan, A., & Arends, F. 2017. TIMSS Grade 5 National Report: Understanding mathematics achievement amongst grade 5 learners in South Africa. Cape Town: HSRC Press.
    2. (TIMSS Gr9) Zuze, L., Reddy, V., Visser, M., Winaar, L., & Govender, A. (2017). TIMSS Grade 9 National Report: Understanding mathematics achievement amongst grade 9 learners in South Africa. Cape Town: HSRC Press.
    3. (SACMEQ 2013). DBE (2017). The SACMEQ IV Project in South Africa: A Study of the Conditions of Schooling and the Quality of Education. Department of Basic Education. Pretoria. (must be read in conjunction with popular press article below).

Popular press articles:

[3] #FeesMustFall: Who should pay for higher education?

Required readings:

  1. Van Broekhuizen, H., Van der Berg, S., & Hofmeyr, H. (2016). Higher Education Access and Outcomes for the 2008 National Matric Cohort. Stellenbosch Economic Working Papers 16/16.
  2. *Chapman, B. (2006) Income Contingent Loans for Higher Education: International Reforms. Handbook of the Economics of Education (Vol 2) pp 1435-1503.
  3. Davis Tax Committee. 2016. Report on the Funding of Tertiary Education. (Online). Available: http://www.taxcom.org.za/docs/20171113%20DTC%20report%20on%20funding%20of%20tertiary%20education%20-%20on%20website.pdf [Accessed: 11 July 2018]

Additional readings:

  1. Van der Berg, S. (2016) Funding university students: Who benefits? Council for Higher Education (CHE). Kagisano, No. 10, p173
  2. UCT Students. 2016. Why Neoclassical Arguments against Free Education are Bullshit: And Why we need free education. (Online). Available: https://vula.uct.ac.za/access/content/group/fdf89eba-baa6-407c-ba96-3a3f959e6d29/Higher%20Education%20Crisis/Free%20Education%20Economics%20critique.pdf [Accessed: 12 July 2018]

Popular press:

 [4] The ins and outs of evaluation in education

Required readings:

  1. (RCTs) Kremer, M., Brannen, C., & Glennerster, R. (2013). The Challenge of Education and Learning in the Developing World. Science 340, 297 (2013)
  2. *(Boundary paper) Gustafsson, M. & Taylor, S. (2018). Treating schools to a new administration: Evidence of the impact of better practices in the system-level administration of schools. Journal of African Economics, 2018, 1-23
  3. Taylor, S. (2018). How can learning inequalities be reduced? Lessons learnt from experimental research in South Africa. In Spaull, N. & Jansen, J. (eds): South African Schooling: The Enigma of Inequality. Springer.

Additional readings:

  1. (EGRS) Cilliers, J., Fleisch, B., Prinsloo, C., Reddy, V., & Taylor, S. (2018). How to improve teaching practice? Experimental comparison of centralized training and in-classroom coaching. Unpublished manuscript.


[5] Inequality in South Africa: What do we know?

Required readings:

  1. Spaull, N. (2018). Equity: A price too high to pay? In Spaull, N. & Jansen, J. (eds): South African Schooling: The Enigma of Inequality. Springer.
  2. Taylor, S. & Yu, D. (2009). The importance of socio-economic status in determining educational achievement in South Africa. Stellenbosch Economic Working Papers: 01/09.
  3. Van der Berg, S. (2007). Apartheid’s enduring legacy: Inequalities in education. Journal for African Economies 16(5), November: 849-880

Additional readings:

  1. Fiske, E. & Ladd, H. (2004) Elusive Equity: Education reform in post-apartheid South Africa. HSRC Press; Brookings Institution Press. Washington DC.
  2. (*)Crouch, L. & Gustafsson, M. (2018) Worldwide Inequality and Poverty in Cognitive Results: Cross-sectional Evidence and Time-based Trends. RISE-WP-18/019. Research on Improving Systems of Education (RISE) (Online). Available: https://www.riseprogramme.org/sites/www.riseprogramme.org/files/publications/RISE_WP-019_Crouch-Gustafsson.pdf [Accessed 12 July 2018]

 [6] Early grade reading in South Africa: What do we know?

Required readings:

  1. Spaull, N. & Pretorius, E. (2018). Still falling at the first hurdle: Early grade reading outcomes in South Africa. In Spaull, N. & Jansen, J. (eds): South African Schooling: The Enigma of Inequality. Springer.
  2. (*) Pretorius, E. & Spaull, N. (2016). Exploring relationships between oral reading fluency and reading comprehension amongst English second language readers in South Africa. Reading and Writing. (29) 1449-1471 DOI: 1-23 10.1007/s11145-016-9645-9
  3. Snow, C. (2017). Early Literacy Development and Instruction: An Overview. The Routledge International Handbook of Early Literacy Education. Routledge.

Additional readings:

  1. (2013). NEEDU National Report 2012: The State of Literacy Teaching and Learning in the Foundation Phase. National Education Evaluation and Development Unit. Pretoria.
  2. (SA PIRLS Literacy) Howie, S., Combrink, C., Roux, K., Tshele, M., Mokoena, G., & Palane, N. 2018. Progress in International Reading Literacy Study 2016: South African Children’s Reading Literacy Achievement. Centre for Evaluation and Assessment. Pretoria.
  3. (PIRLS 2016) Mullis, I., O’Martin, M., Foy, P., & Hooper, M. (2017). PIRLS 2016 International Results in Reading. Progress in International Reading Literacy Study. TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Centre. Boston.
  4. Hoadley, U., 2012. What do we know about teaching and learning in South African primary schools? Education as Change, 16:2, 187-202
  5. Reardon, S., Valentino, R., Shores, K. (2012). Patterns of Literacy among US Students. Future of Children. (Online). Available: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/d337/b5bc4e54e325ffd1a67610b38279ad78ef39.pdf [Accessed 12 July 2018]

4 responses to “Teaching Applied Economics of Education (2018)

  1. Can I reply to this email with any paragraph and CV for auditing the lecture online?

    With kind regards, Bonga

  2. Debbie Schkolne

    Dear Nic

    Thank you for the opportunity. I would really like to audit your course online.

    I have been working in the education sector in SA for the last 8 years in a variety of roles. I am always trying to stay on top of the current status of education at a macro level, which is why I am keen to participate in your course. This view is key to my work and ensuring its relevance and effectiveness.

    Please find my CV attached, which gives a high level picture of the work I have been doing, as well as my educational background.

    I look forward to hearing from you.


    Debbie Schkolne

    Sent from Outlook


  3. Sherwin, Heather

    As per my response yesterday:
    I am keen to audit this course. I would like to learn a lot more about the education system in South Africa and in particular the economics around the provision of a quality education system. The assessment of quality is also of strong interest both for an individual school as well as the system as a whole. I am not an economist by training but have a strong interest in applied economics and am doing a post-grad diploma in International Development through the LSE.

    If that doesn’t work – can I beg?

  4. Christiaan Visser (PhD)

    I would be interested to participate in an auditing capacity to establish whether your course provides perspectives on, inter alia:
    • the effect of the policy environment on the delivery of quality education [refer OBE]: the extent to which research informs national education policy, and the impact of national education policy on the delivery of quality education;
    • the quality and relevance of teacher education given serious concerns expressed on the theory-practise divide, and the absence of a sense of homogeneity or uniformity in the education of teachers and principals (the leadership component) provided by the 26x HE Teacher Education Institutions; to be extended to include the professional development and training of in-service teachers and principals, and SACE’s involvement in this;
    • the quality and use of textbooks as an enabling input in the delivery of quality education (UNESCO) vs the ill-advised and haphazard introduction of technology into classrooms;
    • the effect of the current phase structure – Rx3x3x3x3 – with an alternative structure – e.g. Rx2x2x3x3x2 – on the effectiveness of schooling, allowing, for instance, for first language education to be extended to Grade 4 in an alternative phase structure;
    • the establishment and utilisation of National Research Institutes (NRIs) linked to Research Universities (refer the Singapore Teacher Education Institute) as a means to enhance the effectiveness and relevance of educational research and policy development [Replacing NEEDU with a NRI; establishing NRIs for Teacher Education and Training, Textbooks and ICT Development; Literacy Development; Maths and Science Education.]
    • enhancing the effectiveness and impact of private sector involvement in education.
    Christiaan Visser (PhD)

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