Category Archives: Links I liked…

Links I liked #34

  • Getting to SDG4: Useful 2023 UIS report on ‘Trends in learning proficiency in the last 20 years: How close are we to reliable regional and global SDG 4.1.1 trend statistics. Martin Gustafsson’s reports are always great and this is no exception. Sober, evidence-based and useful.
  • EGRA outcomes by gender: Nice new report (May 2023) by Fonseca et al out of RTI on “Girls have academic advantages and so do boys: A multi-country analysis of gender differences in early grade reading and mathematics outcomes.
  • The Latin-americanisation of SA schools: Last month Johnny Steinberg wrote an interesting op-ed for the Business Day ‘Bad education follows on the township exit of the middle classes. He makes the argument that because the middle classes have left public schools in South Africa, and that “public goods crumble when the middle classes exit”, SA no-fee schools will not improve. It’s an interesting argument and has been made before by Luis Crouch around the transition. I often use an extract of an email exchange I had with Luis in 2018 with my students to explain the nuances and trade-offs faced by the ANC around 1994 (see here). I was asking Luis to contextualise his use of the term “the threat of Latin-Americanisation of SA schools” and he explained it as “The notion that not having the middle classes vocally and publicly support public education as a matter of personal rather than abstract interest, because their own children were in private schools, and that this was deleterious to both accountability and budgetarily support, was fairly commonly held in Latin America at the time. Thus the “Latin-Americanization” notion, a term I may have coined in the South African context.” In most senses this did ‘work’ – SA has a relatively small private school sector. The DBE’s 2022 School Realities shows that only 5,5% of children in South Africa attend private schools (what we call ‘Independent Schools’). That figure is around 17% for most Low and Middle Income countries. Yet that hides the fact that fee-charging public schools are in a way semi-private (they allow parents to top-up public funds with private contributions). See Motala & Carel (2019) I don’t think Johnny’s argument is as clean or simple as he makes it out to be. For example, countries with similar levels of inequality – Brazil / Chile – have much better learning outcomes. It also doesn’t explain why, pre-pandemic, learning outcomes were actually improving quite rapidly (see Van der Berg & Gustafsson, 2019). Personally I think the political economy and bureaucracy dynamics (ANC-SADTU) explain more of the lock-jam than he gives credit to. But great to read thoughtful pieces in our media.
  • The Right to Read: The US Right to Read 2023 Trailer – Glad to see campaigns like this getting momentum. Our own Right to Read & Write published by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) makes similar arguments – essentially that learning to read is a fundamental human right that all are entitled to by virtue of their birth and common humanity.
  • Chile’s COVID-19 catch-up program: Tutorías 2023 with a great promo video:
  • WCED’s Back on Track Program: On Thursday the WCED launched it’s R1,2-billion ‘Back on Track‘ program covering tutoring, Saturday classes, holiday camps etc. There is some detail in the presentation but we’ll have to wait for the full roll-out plan with all the details. Very encouraging to see a costed and budgeted plan for COVID catch up that matches the scale of the devastation.
  • Private schools & PPPs in LMIC: Crawfurd, Hares and Todd (2023) published their paper “The Impact of Private Schools, School Chains and PPPs in Developing Countries” – they conclude that: “The search resulted in over 100 studies on low-cost private schools and PPPs, with a large majority being on low-cost private schools. Our meta-analysis shows moderately strong effects from private schooling, although the limited number of experimental studies find much smaller effects than quasi-experimental studies. This advantage, though, is not nearly enough to help most children reach important learning goals. Turning to policy goals, we find that the private school advantage has not translated to public private partnerships, which have shown limited value in improving quality. They can however represent a lower-cost means of increasing access to school. We also find that private school chains perform little better than individual private schools and have little scope for achieving meaningful scale.”
  • Tracking FLN donor spending: SEEK Development launched their “Donor Tracker for Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN)” The dominance of the United States when it comes to bilateral funding for FLN is significant. Of the $505million spent on FLN in 2020, 68% ($344mil) came from the United States (see below). If you do a deep-dive into US funding specifically you see that the total funding for FLN declined sharply between 2019 ($434mil) and 2020 ($344mil), a 21% decline i na single year. FLN funding is also now a smaller proportion of total funding in 2020 (27% of total) compared to 2019 (30% of total). These are worrying trends since it suggests that the biggest bilateral donor is shifting away from FLN. Great tool to look at funding trends over time.
  • RISE’s Education Systems Course: The folks at Rise have created an Open Access “Education Systems Course” with lectures and videos. Useful syllabus to catch up on readings in this area.
  • School feeding in SA: Given the recent furore over the DBE school feeding scheme (NSNP) failures in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, I was reminded of a 2016 report I came across evaluating the NSNP in two districts in the Eastern Cape. Frustrating that even “stock standard” decades long interventions like the NSNP can go pear shaped without proper monitoring.
  • Racial dynamics in SA: Justine Burns and co-authors published a paper in the AER on “Interaction, Stereotypes, and Performance: Evidence from South Africa.” Fascinating paper: “We exploit a policy designed to randomly allocate roommates in a large South African university to investigate whether interracial interaction affects stereotypes, attitudes and performance. Using implicit association tests, we find that living with a roommate of a different race reduces White students’ negative stereotypes towards Black students and increases interracial friendships. Interaction also affects academic outcomes: Black students improve their GPA, pass more exams and have lower dropout rates. This effect is not driven by roommate’s ability.”
  • A Moral Education: Garth Greenwell writes an essay for the Yale Review that is at times piercing and other times rambling on “In praise of filth.” I liked the initial discussion about the modern turn (or return) to moralising art and the problems with woke culture categorising art “Within the small world of people who care about literature and art, the culture is as moralistic as it has ever been in my lifetime: witness our polemics about who has the right to what subject matter, our conviction that art has a duty to right representational wrongs, that poems or novels or films can be guilty of a violence that seems ever less metaphorical against an audience construed as ever more vulner­able. We have a sense that the most important questions we can ask about a work of art are whether and to what extent it furthers extra-artistic aims, to what extent it serves a world outside itself. The idea that artists should make what they feel compelled to make, regardless of such considerations, that in fact art should be pro­tected from responsibilities of this kind, seems part and parcel of a discredited Romantic model of the artist as exempt from workaday morality, licensed by genius to act badly, or at least to disregard the claims of others.”
  • Learning losses and resisting “back to normal” policies: The New York Times published an article “Parents Don’t Understand How Far Behind Their Kids Are in School” (via Brahm Fleisch). Their conclusion is especially apt in South Africa where the modus operandi has been very much “back to normal” in most provinces: “As enticing as it might be to get back to normal, doing so will just leave in place the devastating increase in inequality caused by the pandemic. In many communities, students lost months of learning time. Justice demands that we replace it. We must find creative ways to add new learning opportunities in the summer, after school, on weekends or during a 13th year of school. If we fail to replace what our children lost, we — not the coronavirus — will be responsible for the most inequitable and longest-lasting legacy of the pandemic. But if we succeed, that broader and more responsive system of learning can be our gift to America’s schoolchildren.”

Can I change?

Links I Liked #33

  • A new-ish paper by Das, Singh & Chang (2022) “Test scores and educational opportunities: Panel evidence from five low- and middle-income countries” is a sobering reminder of the primacy of family wealth and socioeconomic status: “A striking implication is that in every country, children from low SES backgrounds who are in the 80th percentile of test scores at age 12 have similar years of completed schooling at age 22 as children from high SES backgrounds who were at the 20th percentile of test scores.”
  • IEA published a list of “Factsheets” for International Large Scale Assessments (ILSAs), for example TIMSS 2019.
  • RTI (2021) Higher Grounds: Practical Guidelines for Forging Learning Pathways in Upper Primary Education
  • Nice visualisation of Pakistan’s 2022 budget (GitHub)

Links I liked #32

“Our social imagination is partly constituted by our ruling metaphors, and the key metaphor of the age of meritocracy is ‘the ladder’. As David Cameron put it in 2013: ‘You help people by putting up ladders that they can climb through their own efforts.’ But this may not paint quite as inviting a picture as Cameron hoped. Ladders are confining modes of ascent, which don’t leave much room for choice: there is no overtaking and the direction of travel is fixed, rung by rung. Ladder-speak tends to ignore the fact that ladders are used for descending as much as ascending, and has nothing to say about what happens when someone on the way down meets someone on the way up. And of course there will always be some people who prefer to take the lift. Where, in any case, are all these competitors in the Great Ladder-Climbing Championships trying to get to? The metaphor suggests a once-and-for-all ascent: you climb a ladder to get somewhere; ladder-climbing is not a way of life.”

  • Debate: I came across this debate-by-letters and loved the banter between academics. “Deidre McCloskey & Economists’ Ideas about Ideas.” Read the whole thing –
  • Assessment: SACMEQ is notoriously under-documented. This 2019 Kenya Report on SACMEQ IV (2013) is helpful in that regard. 
  • Martin Gustafsson’s pice in The Conversation about the incoming wave of teacher retirements. Watch this space.
  • The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in collaboration with RTI (Ben Piper et al., who else 🙂 ) have published a series of really helpful reports on:
  1. Structured Pedagogy: How to guides and literature review
  2. Practical language choices for improving Foundational Literacy and Numeracy in sub-Saharan Africa,
  3. Language of instruction in Foundational Literacy and Numeracy Programs in sub-Saharan Africa: The Basics,
  4. Classroom level assessment,
  5. System level assessment
  • Reports: Useful OECD PISA-for-Development report (2020) on out of school youth in 5 countries (Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay & Senegal)

Links I liked #31

  • Cool video: Every year the employees of Allan Gray (the bank) nominate and vote on NGOs that they would like funded as part of the Allan Gray Philanthropy Initiative. This year they developed two short videos explaining some of the SA educational context in visual essays. The first one is above and here.
  • Learning losses 1: Martin Gustafsson wrote a useful UIS report in March 2021 on “Pandemic-related disruptions to schooling and impacts onlearning proficiency indicators:A focus on the early grades
  • Learning losses 2: Cally Ardington has written a detailed and thorough report on learning losses as a result of the pandemic and school closures: “Across the reading tasks, learning losses were between 57-70% of a normal grade 2 year.” Importantly rotational time-tables (50% attendance) are still the reality in 70%+ of SA schools and so these learning losses continue to grow every day.
  • SA’s Planning Docs: In August 2020, the DBE published an updated version of their The Action Plan to 2024 – it’s a comprehensive 150-page document that has lots of useful statistics and analysis and sets out their plans for the next 5 years. It also makes it quite clear that early grade reading is now a top priority: “The plan reflects six priorities identified by the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) early in 2020. These priorities are: (1) Foundational skills of numeracy and literacy, especially reading…”. Look at it in conjunction with Presidency’s MTSF 2019-2024 which also states that one of the “Five Fundamental Goals of the next 10 years” is “(4) Our schools will have better educational outcomes and every 10-year-old will be able to read for meaning” (p.23) 🙂
  • Reading in SA: A collection of SA authors who contributed to the DBE’s benchmarking in Nguni Languages report have now published their work in IJED here: “Benchmarking oral reading fluency in the early grades in Nguni languages” well done Cally, Gabi, Lilli, Mpumi and Alicia!
  • Reading in the US: Great article showing how nearly half of US states have required (by law) that the science of reading must be used in teacher prep, training and assessment. The North Carolina 2021 law looks especially promising. There was also an interesting Economist article this month “American schools teach reading all wrong
  • Inequality & education in SA: Stephanie Allais and colleagues wrote an article for New Frame titled “Is Education the Answer to Inequality in SA?“, largely based on their 2019 “Rupturing or reinforcing inequality? the role of education in South Africa today” For some reason Stephanie and Yael didn’t send it to me then 🙂 I think there are some interesting points in the article but I don’t agree with their main conclusion that “[learning] outcomes will not change without changing widespread poverty.” But it warrants a more thorough response than just a blog post!
  • Jobs: The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation are looking for a “Program Officer – Cape Town, South Africa“, they’re doing lots of interesting work on reading, maths, tech, schools & higher-education in SA so apply if you’d like to work with them!
  • Editorials: Great New Frame article on Johannesburg: “South Africa’s largest city is a world city, the home of jazz, art, politics and insurgent popular aspirations. But it is in precipitous decline, making now the time to act.”  
  • Great French vaccination ad. Vive la France!
  • Also, just for lols Forbes from 2007…

Links I liked #30

Hello everyone.

It has been a while. It’s been more than a year since I posted a blog about the links that I’ve liked and so there are quite a few. I miss making lists and finding images and sharing things with other people. So this is that, and something I want to do more of. The image above is like design catnip for me, and if I ever started a newspaper I would want it to look like this!

So without further ado here are the links I’ve liked…

  • In this month’s LRB, Stefan Collini has a great article titled “Snakes and Laddersabout the myths around meritocracy, especially in the UK and the US. A few excerpts: “Everything suggests that meritocracy is the camouflage adopted by self-sustaining dynastic advantage in an age of democratic sentiment. The dynasties in question are not the old quasi-aristocratic families (though, as it turns out, they do rather well in the new world of ruthlessly competitive careers), but, even so, a relatively tiny segment of the population is managing to transmit advantage from generation to generation.“…“Helicopter parenting is just superordinate labour applied to the project of reproducing status in a meritocratic regime.’ Thus, ‘investments in human capital, made while parents are still alive, have replaced bequests of physical and financial capital as the dominant means for conveying elite status down through the generations’ – a form of wealth transmission that has the further advantage of escaping taxation.”… “High-status roles that once came with a relatively high salary are now, by corporate standards, ludicrously underpaid. In the US the chief justice of the Supreme Court earns roughly $270,000 per year, while the ‘most profitable law firms pay their average partners over $5 million annually, or roughly twenty times as much (and the signing bonus paid to former law clerks at the Supreme Court, who are perhaps two or three years out of law school, is now $400,000).’ Those who make careers as teachers, public health workers, officials in federal agencies or in local government have fallen far, far behind most of their contemporaries who have gone into the lucrative parts of the private sector.”
  • A revised PIRLS 2011 to 2016 trend for South Africa and the importance of analysing the underlying microdata – The perennially insightful Martin Gustafsson wrote this important paper in 2020 about previous errors in the PIRLS reading score trends. The TL;DR version is that the 2011 scores were incorrectly calibrated and lower than we previously thought they were, meaning that the trend (from 2006–>2011–>2016) is actually a continually upward trend rather than a stagnating one. Important stuff.
  • Teachers’ unions and industrial action in South African primary schools: Exploring their impacts on learning” – an important 2019 paper by Gabrielle Wills exploring the 2007 teacher strikes using SACMEQ III data. Teachers in the wealthiest quartile of schools in SA striked for 5 days on average compared to 13 days for the poorest 75% of teachers (medians are even starker: 1 day compared to 15 days).
  • Quite a few people have been asking about the upper end of the matric performance distribution in SA. This is not something that is typically reported by the DBE in their annual matric publications (for whatever reason). I have been referring people to the appendix of my 2019 paper (Spaull & Makaluza, 2019) where we show the numbers of students achieving at each of the deciles of performance for the ‘main’ matric subjects. For example, there are only 5,815 students who got 80% or more for Mathematics in 2018.

  • Professional development that improves STEM outcomes – Hill et al 2020. Although based on US evidence, a nice meta-analysis. The conclusion: “Overall, we found, the evidence suggests that the most effective programs focus on topics — including curriculum materials, academic content, and how students learn — that build knowledge teachers can directly use during instruction. We argue that such learning opportunities support teachers in making more informed in-the-moment instructional decisions.” (see also Lynch et al 2019)
  • Lots of helpful and interesting articles on early grade reading referenced in this 2020 RISE post by Yue Yi and her colleagues at RISE…including:
  • “Intervening at home and then at school: A Randomized Evaluation of Two Approaches to Improve Early Educational Outcomes in Tonga” (Macdonald et al, 2018).
  • Improving Reading Instruction and Students’ Reading Skills in the Early Grades: Evidence From a Randomized Evaluation in Haiti” (Guzman et al., 2020).
  • A 2006 evaluation of Breakthrough to Literacy in Botswana (Peacock & Morakaladi, 2018).
  • “The impact of language policy and practice on children’s learning: Evidence from Eastern and Southern Africa” (UNICEF, 2016)
  • “Pacific Early Age Readiness & Learning Program (PEARL): Every Child Ready, Every Child Learning”
  • Implementing and Evaluating Interventions to Improve School Readiness and Early Literacy Experience from the Pacific Early Age Readiness and Learning Program” (Vu et al. 2019)
  • The Smithsonian announced makes nearly 3-million images available online and free to use. Viva Creative Commons viva.
  • “Audacious Education Purposes: How governments transform the goals of their education system” (Reimers, 2020)
  • Sad Public Service Announcement: Less than 2% of South Africans have a post-grad qualification (Branson, 2020) 😦 Their research project (Siyaphambili) also has a great interactive website.
  • “Benchmarking early grade reading skills in Nguni languages” (Ardington et al, 2020) – important ‘plumbing’ work that needs to be done in the background as we move towards all children reading for meaning by age 10.
  • “Where Have All the Textbooks Gone? Toward Sustainable Provision of Teaching and Learning Materials in Sub-Saharan Africa” (Read, 2015). useful World Bank report on an understudied area.
  • SACMEQ has released SACMEQ IV reports for Botswana, Namibia, Mauritius and South Africa.
  • “NGOs and the effectiveness of interventions” (Usman et al 2021) – interesting new paper… “a local development NGO’s prior engagement with target communities increases the effectiveness of a technology-promotion intervention implemented by it by at least 30 percent. This “NGO effect” has implications for the generalizability and scalability of evidence from experimental research conducted with local implementation partners.” (via Justin Sandefur)

That’s all for now but hopefully I will be blogging more in the neat future…


Links I liked…

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Some new research I liked…

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If you’ve come across interesting articles please post them in the comments!


Links I liked…& more job ads

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  • Extremely helpful list of research and travel funding for African academics.
  • Great website for teaching statistics – Seeing Theory – an interactive ‘textbook’


  • JPAL and Pratham are looking for a Managing Director of “Teaching at the Right Level” Teaching at the Right Level Africa is a new high-profile initiative jointly led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) and the Indian Education NGO Pratham. We currently seek a dynamic Managing Director (Nairobi/JHB) to drive a scale up of the Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) learning approach to more than 3 million primary school children in Africa over the next five years. Core to this role is helping to build a collaborative, unified TaRL Africa team that works across multiple countries and partners to achieve our goal of supporting education systems throughout the continent.  Read more and apply here.
  • The DBE are looking for a Director of “Educator Performance Management and Whole School Evaluation” (Pretoria)
  • We have extended the deadline for the COO position at Funda Wande (Cape Town) to the 12th of April 2019 – if you know of anyone or think you fit the profile please apply!

Links I liked…


Over the last while I’ve been swamped working on the Funda Wande: Reading for Meaning program (more on that soon) and haven’t managed to keep up with the ‘Links I liked‘ blog posts. I think these are a helpful way of keeping track of good articles/books/blogs/videos etc. and curating some of cool stuff on the internet so I want to get back into this. Most of my time these days is spent looking at early grade reading in African languages so most of the articles are linked to that…

Useful new research:

I think I already posted the links below but it can’t hurt to do it again:

If you’ve read any great articles in the last while feel free to post them in the comments!

Links I liked…


These are some things I’ve been reading and listening to over the last while. Sharing is caring 🙂 Post yours in the comments below…

  • “Bread and roses” – political slogan and poem – sung by The Radcliffe Pitches  (thanks Brett!). The phrase “Give us bread but give us roses too” resonated with me as the most succinct way of expressing that the fight for dignity is about more than meeting basic needs.
  • Linked to the above poem, I really enjoyed Joel Modiri’s article “The Law’s Poverty” and the clash between an a-historical human-rights approach to the law and a historically-situated “justice” approach to the law.
  • To be or not to be” – Masha Gessen on choice, Jewishness, identity, emigration and America (thanks again Brett!)
  • STARI – Excellent resources on reading in Middle School (Grade 6-8). The STARI project run by Catherine Snow –
  • WordGen – More resources on developing vocabulary through a 72-week discussion program (Catherine Snow’s baby)
  • Huapango – a Mexican folklore ballet showcasing the incredible cultural variety and richness of the Mexican peoples. Each part of the song was created with a one group in mind and the ballet showcases their traditional dances and outfits. I’ve been listening to this on repeat for about a month (Thanks Victor!)
  • Jonathan Jansen’s address to the Stanford Senate: “The case for the Academic Senate” – I include an excerpt from that address below:

“What does this say about the role of the Senate? Quite simply, the question of knowledge is at its root a question of agenda-setting in any Senate. This points to leadership, of the President and in particular of the Senate executive. A university Senate has a choice. It can be primarily a place of administrative regulations, rules and procedures but it can also be an arena in which the “big questions” of academy and society come to enjoy prominence on the Agenda.  I wish to suggest five such big questions (the first already referenced earlier) that should constitute a major part of the agenda of Academic Senates concerned with the purposes of a university in the 21st century:

(1) The representational contents of the curriculum (what we teach)

It matters enormously that Senates step back on a regular basis and ask questions about knowledge, identity and curriculum. What knowledge matters in the 21st century? Whose knowledge “makes it” into the curriculum? And is the Stanford graduate in any field of study equipped to encounter and act on a complex (integrated and divided) world?

(2) The complexion of the professoriate (who teaches)

It does matter that a Senate asks questions of who teaches. The strength of the best universities in the world depends crucially on the recruitment of the best talent across contexts, cultures and countries. It also conveys to students (and faculty) a crucial point that advanced knowledge is not locked up in one race, gender or culture.

(3) The diversity of the undergraduate (and also graduate) enrolments (whom we teach)

It matters that a Senate keeps returning to the question of who the student is we are privileged to teach. All students benefit from the knowledge that comes with learning from and alongside students from different class, race and ethnic backgrounds but also from other countries. (It always puzzles me that a university can boast, for the purposes of improved rankings, about the exclusivity of its entering first year class). It is also true that the strength of Stanford’s academic programs has always depended on the recruitment of the most talented graduate students on the planet.

(4) The methods of teaching (how we teach)

It is difficult to imagine a Senate in the heart of the Silicon Valley not returning to the agenda the question of the best technologies (in the broadest sense of the word) for teaching in this century. I know Stanford does this well. And yet efficacious teaching is about much more than technology-led instruction or teaching innovations in the classroom; it is about powerful teaching that engages student minds, develops criticality, stirs social and intellectual discomfort, and prepares those who seek learning to become comfortable with uncertainty. In short, how does the Stanford Senate account for teaching in this large and complex institution?

(5) The impacts on learning (whether teaching matters)

An academic Senate agenda should be concerned with the question whether what we teach matters in the lives of students. Powerful teaching is only evident in powerful learning. But this has to be assessed beyond the limiting confines of passing or failing in modules, courses or even degrees. Such assessment asks questions about the enduring effects of the educational experience beyond marketing anecdotes or even “feedback loops” from the corporate environment. Do graduates from this great university do much more than earn a living on a well-paid job? That surely must be among the broader purposes of a Stanford education and, therefore, a concern of the Senate.”

Barbara Band’s links on diversity and inclusion

barbaraLast week I spoke at the South African Librarian’s Conference at Highbury in KZN (presentation one and presentation two) and heard Barbara Band speak about how the library can be a vital tool to make schools more inclusive and help all students thrive. It struck a cord for me because in high school I basically lived in the library during breaks for three years. My librarians weren’t especially empathetic or insightful but it was still a safe place in an unsafe school. As always we can’t forget that South Africa is a deeply unequal country and that only 37% of learners are in a school with a library (Page 20 from this DBE report).

In Barbara’s address she mentioned a bunch of different sites and resources and I asked her to email them to me so I could share the mall with you, so here they are:

Booklists and bookshops:


List of organisations that support diversity and inclusion:

  • Ditch The Label – anti-bullying charity supporting 12 – 25 year olds
  • EACH – Educational Action Challenging Homophobia: provides training, support and resources.
  • Educate and Celebrate – Ofsted and DFE recognised programme to implement LGBTQ/inclusive curriculum
  • Gendered Intelligence – a not-for-profit company whose aim is to increase understandings of gender diversity.
  • GIRES – Gender Identity Research and Education Society: aim is to improve lives of trans and gender non-conforming people. Lots of links to articles, research, legal advice, etc.
  • 6IGLYO – International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Youth and Student Organisation: works with over 95 LGBTQ groups, run by and for young people.
  • Inclusive Minds – a group of consultants and campaigners working to improve diversity in children’s literature.
  • Kidscape – deals with anti-bullying and child protection
  • Mermaids – Family and individual support for children and teens with Gender Identity Issues.
  • 4Metro – Equality and diversity charity, focusing mainly around London and South East.
  • Rewind – works in education to challenge racism and extremism
  • Schools Out UK – aim is to make schools safe and inclusive for everyone: lots of links to resources and other relevant websites.
  • Stonewall – help and advice, carries out research, partners with schools and organisations, lots of resources.
  • Welcoming Schools – aimed at US elementary schools but has useful information, advice, etc.




Links I liked :)

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Some things I’ve been reading:

New Research:

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.

Links I liked


    • Civilising in Earnest: Schools and Schooling” – Chapter 18 of Weber’s “Peasants into Frenchmen: The Modernisation of Rural France.” An incredibly insightful read about the role that education plays in unifying a country, standardising a language and promoting the dominant culture. A must read.
    • Currently I’m very interested in Catherine Snow‘s research on reading – the way she writes about reading and reading research is both accessible and sophisticated but also totally unpretentious. Start with this article: “Reading Comprehension: Reading for Learning.” I also found an online version of Adger, Snow & Christian’s (2003) “What teachers need to know about language” which looks great.
    • I recently gave a workshop/seminar at Herzlia High School in Cape Town on the topic “Assessment: Helping or Hurting the Academic Project?” where we spoke about new thinking in the assessment space, as well as expanding what we consider the academic project to be; including socio-emotional skills, grit, and 21st century skills (Creativity, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Communication). On this note, NPR published a nice post titled “Non-academic skills are key to success. But what should we call them.”
    • Evaluation of Washington DC’s IMPACT policy (controversial teacher-rating system and concomitant replacement of ineffective teachers) had a positive impact on student outcomes
    • Pasi Sahlberg writes that Harvard grad students (and all others) should be able to write op-eds and not just academic papers. Obviously I agree. Future students consider yourselves notified.
    • BrainPickings covers Krista Tippett’s new book “Becoming Wise: An inquiry into the mystery and art of living.” I thoroughly enjoyed Krista’s interview on Design Matters.
    • Cool  TED Talk by Paulo Blikstein from Stanford on his idea of the FabLab@School at Stanford.
  • The End of the Lecture?” by Peter Struck – “In contrast a good lecture should be designed to make a student work harder to prepare for the following one. It will motivate students to carry on the really hard, self-driven work of teaching themselves. It needs to transform data into knowledge by providing a synthesis and modelling for the students how to do it. It tailors the mass of information on a subject into a comprehensible narrative that picks and chooses, making judgments and subordinating some ideas to others. It animates the raw power of the fresh ideas it conveys. In other words, what makes a good lecture in these new formats is pretty much what makes a good lecture at all. Lectures have always been hard to do well, and we would benefit from more time spent working to improve them, something that will happen only by first resisting anti-lectureism, which, as a side effect, absolves us from the task.
  • Q&A with Angela Duckworth (of ‘grit’ fame) “One thing we’re doing to learn more about what teachers are doing, what works, and how we can scale it, is we are giving grants to teachers. Teachers probably have better ideas than we do about children and how to help them. What they don’t always have is training in the scientific method, measurement, study design, and statistics. What we’re hoping to do is help those teachers test those ideas in ways that might be more systematic than they might be able to do on their own.”


Minding the gap?’ A national foundation phase teacher supply and demand analysis: 2012-2020 – Green, Adendorf & Mathebula (2015)

Abstract: This paper explores the extent to which foundation phase teacher supply meets demand in South Africa, against a backdrop of considerable change in an education system endeavouring to fulfil the needs of a 21st century society while still battling with significant inequalities in the distribution of skills. The primary purpose of the paper is to use recently sourced teacher education data from a range of national databases to determine to what extent state-led interventions are assisting to meet the foundation phase teacher supply and demand challenge. The data, as well as the more qualitative aspects of their context, are analysed at the macro (national) level to present a more nuanced picture of foundation phase teacher supply and demand. The study attempts to move beyond simply basing an analysis of supply and demand on teacher attrition, and takes into account multiple variables that should be considered in supply and demand planning. It also goes beyond simply matching supply to demand in the most recent year for which data is available, to forecasting a future scenario which will need to be planned for. The paper concludes by suggesting steps that should be taken to ensure a better match between supply and demand.

Making Good Use of New Assessments: Interpreting and Using Scores From the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (2015) by Linda Darling-Hammond Edward Haertel James Pellegrino. Important thinking about around new assessments.

Quasi-experimental evidence on the effects of mother tongue-based education on reading skills and early labour market outcomes (Bethlehem A. Argaw∗ Leibniz University of Hanover February 23, 2016)

 Abstract: Prior to the introduction of mother tongue based education in 1994, the language of instruction for most subjects in Ethiopia’s primary schools was the official language (Amharic) – the mother tongue of only one third of the population. This paper uses the variation in individual’s exposure to the policy change across birth cohorts and mother tongues to estimate the effects of language of instruction on reading skills and early labour market outcomes. The results indicate that the reading skills of birth cohorts that gained access to mother tongue-based primary education after 1994 improved significantly by about 11 percentage points. The provision of primary education in mother tongue halved the reading skills gap between Amharic and non-Amharic mother tongue users. The improved reading skills seem to translate into gains in the labour market in terms of the skill contents of jobs held and the type of payment individuals receive for their work. An increase in school enrollment and enhanced parental educational investment at home are identified as potential channels linking mother tongue instruction and an improvement in reading skills.

Double for Nothing? Experimental Evidence on the Impact of an Unconditional Teacher Salary Increase on Student Performance in Indonesia” (Dee et al, 2016)

Abstract: How does a large unconditional increase in salary affect employee performance in the public sector? We present the first experimental evidence on this question to date in the context of a unique policy change in Indonesia that led to a permanent doubling of base teacher salaries. Using a large-scale randomized experiment across a representative sample of Indonesian schools that affected more than 3,000 teachers and 80,000 students, we find that the doubling of pay significantly improved teacher satisfaction with their income, reduced the incidence of teachers holding outside jobs, and reduced self-reported financial stress. Nevertheless, after two and three years, the doubling in pay led to no improvements in measures of teacher effort or student learning outcomes, suggesting that the salary increase was a transfer to teachers with no discernible impact on student outcomes. Thus, contrary to the predictions of various efficiency wage models of employee behavior (including gift-exchange, reciprocity, and reduced shirking), as well as those of a model where effort on pro-social tasks is a normal good with a positive income elasticity, we find that unconditional increases in salaries of incumbent teachers had no meaningful positive impact on student learning

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.

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

Important new education research


    • Ursula Hoadley and Joe Muller have just published their important paper looking at assessment in South Africa “Visibility and differentiation: Systemic testing in a developing country context” (Curriculum Journal, 2016)- I prefer their earlier title “Testing testing: Investigating the epistemic potential of systemic testing” (Un-gated draft-version of that paper here).
    • Why has large-scale standardised testing attracted such a bad press? Why has pedagogic benefit to be derived from test results been downplayed? The paper investigates this question by first surveying the pros and cons of testing in the literature, and goes on to examine educators’ responses to standardised, large-scale tests in a sample of low socio-economic status (SES) schools in the Western Cape, South Africa. The paper shows that teachers and school managers have an ambivalent attitude to tests, wary of the reputational costs they can incur, but also curious about the differentiated picture test results can give them as they learn to ‘read’ the underlying codes embedded in the results. The paper concludes that a focus on what tests make visible and a recognition of the pedagogic agency of teachers points to potential pedagogic benefits of systemic tests.

    • Craig Paxton has finally finished his PhD thesis “Possibilities and constraints for improvement in rural South African schools” (UCT, 2015). This is on my to skim/read list together with Eric Schollar’s PhD (see below)
    • Part of Craig’s PhD abstract:”Rural South African schools face a complex mix of challenges, which make improvement a daunting task. Not only do schools deal with the time, place and space issues that face rural schools worldwide, but in addition they contend with a legacy of severely deprived schooling under the apartheid system. Using the framework of the Five Essential Supports, developed by the Consortium on Chicago School Research, together with Bourdieu’s notions of habitus and doxa, this thesis examines what improvement might mean in this deeply disadvantaged context. The five supports – leadership, learning climate, school-community ties, ambitious instruction and professional capacity – are contextualised to account for both the rural setting and the peculiarities of education in South Africa’s former homeland communities. Alongside this largely quantitative framework, Bourdieu’s conceptual tools are brought to bear, offering an alternative perspective that makes sense of the complex forces produced by history and rurality

    •  Pritchett’s new (2015) RISE Working Paper “Creating Education Systems Coherent for Learning Outcomes.” This has been quite an influential paper for me. Although in the South African context I would almost always add “Capacitation” to his four criteria Delegation, Financing, Information, Motivation. Lant also has a great (and scathing) critique of meta-analyses of quantitative studies:
    • If one were to take this approach of “rigorous evidence” at face value then there is rigorous evidence that nothing in the conventional wisdom actually works. There is rigorous evidence that giving out textbooks doesn’t matter, there is rigorous evidence pay for performance doesn’t matter, there is rigorous evidence that class size doesn’t matter. Of course there is also rigorous evidence that all these elements of the conventional wisdom do matter. The usual approach of doing a “systematic review” of the literature that simply counts studies (in a quality weighted basis) is not at all helpful. Suppose that context A is a system coherent for learning—so that teachers know what students should learn, that learning is measured on a regular and reliable basis and teachers are motivated to achieve high student learning—and class size is reduced. Let’s assume that learning improves (as there is RCT evidence from the USA, for instance, that this is true). Context B is a system coherent for schooling only. Class size is reduced. Let’s assume learning doesn’t improve (as there is RCT evidence from Kenya, for instance, that this is true). Suppose the only two studies in the systematic review were USA and Kenya. Then the conclusion would be that “class size improves student learning in 50 percent of the studies.” Now suppose that 8 more rigorous studies were done in the USA so that a systematic review would conclude “class size improves student learning in 90 percent of studies.” Suppose, in contrast, 8 more studies were done in Kenya. Then a systematic review of the rigorous evidence would conclude “class size improves student learning in 10 percent of the studies.” All three statements are equally worthless. The (assumed) truth is that “class size improves performance in context A but not in context B” and hence unless one knows whether the relevant context is A or B the systematic review finding of impact in 50 percent, 90 percent or 10 percent of the studied cases is irrelevant.

  • Glewwe & Muralidharan’s new (2015) RISE Working Paper “Improving School Education Outcomes in Developing Countries” they find that:
  • Interventions that focus on improved pedagogy (especially supplemental instruction to children lagging behind grade level competencies) are particularly effective, and so are interventions that improve school governance and teacher accountability

Links I liked



Links I liked (and some personal reflections)


  • Taylor, N. 1989. Falling at the First Hurdle: Initial encounters with the formal system of African education in South Africa. Research Report #1. EPU. (via JET Education). – an old but important report that is not in the public domain yet (as far as I’m aware) – thanks JET for scanning this.

  • Improving learning in primary schools of developing countries: A meta-analysis of randomized experiments” – Patrick McEwan (2015) (via Servaas van der Berg).
  • The independent Task Team led by Prof John Volmink, which was appointed to look into the ‘jobs-for-cash’ scandal exposed by CityPress last year, has found that SADTU has a ‘stranglehold‘ over the State in provinces such as the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal. These scandals sometimes turn deadly when the ‘right’ candidate is not appointed. On this topic I would highly recommend Gabi Wills’ new article “Informing principal policy reforms in South Africa through data-based evidence.” To give you the highlight: The cohort of principals that are currently in the system are, on average, much older than they were in the past meaning that there is soon to be a wave of principal retirements. Whereas in 2004 only 17% of principals were aged 55yrs+, in 2012 that figure was 33%! If these principals retire at 60 this means that between 2012 and 2017 there will be about 7000 principal replacements! (remember there are only about 24,000 public schools in SA).
  • This latest report shows that the South African Council of Educators (SACE) is a toothless dog, as I have argued before. Earlier this year SACE ran their own investigation into the exact same jobs-for-cash scam and could not find “a single bit of evidence” that there was corruption in the appointment of teachers and principals in SA. Subsequently CityPress has claimed SADTU ‘told SACE to end their investigation” after the names of top SADTU officials started cropping up in the investigation. So how is it that SACE ran an investigation on the same issue at the same time and found no evidence while Volmink’s team found multiple examples of corruption, and 13 of the cases were so strong that they could already be passed on to the police? Go figure. Minister Motshekga needs to put a target on SACE and reform the entire organization. It is rotten through and through.
  • Holstee have come up with a set of 10 questions to ask yourself about the year that was. Reflection. Contemplation. Good stuff.
  • I’m re-reading Henri Nouwen’s “Reaching Out” – the book where he outlines his understanding of spirituality from the Christian perspective. It’s lovely, not too preachy or crispy-clean / three-bags-full-sir Christianiaty which I have little tolerance for. One quote:

“When loneliness is haunting me with its possibility of being a threshold instead of a dead end, a new creation instead of a grave, a meeting place instead of an abyss, then time loses its desperate clutch on me. Then I no longer have to live in a frenzy of activity, overwhelmed and afraid of the missed opportunity” – Anonymous in Nouwen’s Reaching Out p35

All models are wrong but some are useful.

— George Box (via Farnam Street Brain Food)

I am really enjoying poetry for the first time in a long time…

“I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.” – T.S. Elliott

Also Pablo Neruda.

It was also my birthday last month which started in tears and ended in champagne with a view! Ad Astra Per Aspera!


Photo credit: Michael Chandler (@MrChandlerHouse)

Links I liked


  • It is worth reading and re-reading the DBE’s “Second detailed indicator report for the basic education sector” published last year. The infrastructural backlogs in the Eastern Cape particularly are truly unbelievable.
  • The MEC of Gauteng has proposed rotating principals every September in an effort to curb corruption. As a friend of mine said “It takes at least 3 years to find your feet in a new school – this is like school leadership musical chairs. It’s ludicrous.” I agree.
  • New IJER Special Issue on Teacher Rounds, like medical rounds but for teaching practice.
  • Instil Education – a private teacher development startup in SA – are looking for an “Instil Fellow” and a “Director of Teacher Development” – links here.
  • I’m currently reading through one of my masters students dissertations and came across this lovely quote by Martha Nussbaum:
  • “Nothing could be more crucial to democracy than the education of its citizens. Through primary and secondary education, young citizens form, at a crucial age, habits of mind that will be with them all through their lives. They learn to ask questions or not to ask them; to take what they hear at face value or to probe more deeply; to imagine the situation of a person different from themselves or to see a new person as a mere threat to the success of their own projects; to think of themselves as members of a homogeneous group or as members of a nation, and a world, made up of many people and groups, all of whom deserve respect and understanding” – Nussbaum (2006, p.387).
  • I am currently staying with a friend and his family and made a few meals from Nigel Slater’s “Tender: Volume 1” which is lovely. My kind of a cookbook.  Kathleen Alcott captures the appeal in her New Yorker article
  • Slater is the writer for those of us who have ended up in the kitchen because transforming chopped vegetables and seasoned meats into complex dishes makes us feel that we have acted capably for the sake of our own well-being, and for the well-being of those we love. The hours I spend bent over an evolving meal are, as I believe they are for Slater, a step in the direction of the person I want to be and the home I’d like to have, even if I am frequently not that person, even if I do not come from that type of home. We conceive who we are as we conceive the meal in front of us.”
  • Two documents that will be helpful for those in government and in the NGO world. They are “Database of potential funders for municipalities” and in a different version: Database of potential funders (both from the CSI Trialogue Newsletter)

Links I liked…


  • I attended the “Thinking Big about Learning” event at Stanford last month. I would strongly recommend watching the talks by Doorley on the future of the university and Wojcicki on student-driven learning using media. If you’ve never heard Carol Dweck before then watch her video, but if you have then skip it – it’s the same flipping thing she’s been saying for 15 years. But the concept of a growth mindset is important enough to give her a free-pass to everything for life! Carl Wieman’s talk was also great.
  • My @Powerfm987 interview on the Child Gauge 2015 where we spoke about education, reading by age 10, school fees and inequality, teacher training, priorities and whether or not government is working with researchers in education (short answer: yes, but probably not enough).
  • Last year Nobel Prize-winning economist Angus Deaton gave a lecture at LSE “A Menagerie of Lines: How to Decide Who is Poor?
  • Megan Beckett‘s beautiful concept maps showing how “Life and Living” concepts fit together across the Grade 4-9 science curriculum.
  • Corruption Watch releases report on money mismanagement in South African schools. Sigh.
  • How much inequality is reduced by progressive taxation and government spending in SA?” – useful to get some stats on the table! the gist of it
    • “Through progressive taxation and pro-poor social spending, the SA fiscal system reduces income inequality significantly. The extent of this reduction is larger than in twelve comparable middle-income countries measured similarly. Nevertheless, ‘final’ income (i.e. income after major taxes, government transfers and spending) remains more unequal than in comparator countries. While the fiscal system has an important role to play in reducing inequality, interventions to improve the distribution of wages, salaries and capital income are needed”
  • I came across an important SA company, Advantage Learn which offers teaching videos for Grade 10, 11 and 12 in maths, science and NBTs. I know James and Crispian personally and have some friends that were taught by Trish and rave about her teaching. Looking forward to exploring this further in December…
  • MIT PHD student Dan De Kadt has a new paper on service delivery and voting behaviour, finding the opposite of what one would expect: “Studying southern African democracies, where infrastructural investment in basic services has expanded widely but not universally, we find a surprising answer to this question: Voters who receive services are less likely to support the incumbent.” (It’s a pretty small world in SA – Dan and his team at Glenwood were our main debate rivals in high school!)
  • Some links from Mike Youngblood who taught one of the courses I took at Stanford.

“Here’s a few quick resources for you. Some are coming from more of a design perspective, others from more of an anthropological perspective – but they’re all talking about the intersection between the two.

  • Fulton Suri, Jane. “Poetic Observation: What Designers Make of What They See” in Design Anthropology (Springer, 2011) pages 16-32.
  • Salvador, Tony et al. “Design Ethnography” in Design Management Journal (Fall 1999) pp 35-41.