It’s that time of the year again! I’ll be teaching my postgraduate Applied Economics of Education course at Stellenbosch University. The course runs from the 18th of July to mid-October 2022. The lectures are in-person from 11:15-13:15 on Mondays and in-person STATA pracs on Wednesdays 14:00-16:00. The full syllabus can be found HERE. If you have a strong interest in the course and would like to apply to be an auditor please complete the Google Form which is inside the course outline. Every year there are a number of local and international auditors that enrich the course by their participation. Approved auditors can join in-person at Stellenbosch (ideal) or electronically via Zoom. There are a limited number of spaces for auditors and those with a quantitative and/or postgraduate background will have preference. Note also that all auditors have to do the readings and hand in the weekly reading reflections as your price of entry. I’ve included the list of readings for each lecture below:

Required readings are indicated with an *

(1) Inequality in South African education

  1. *Spaull, N. (2019). Equity: A price too high to pay? In Spaull, N. & Jansen, J. (eds): South African Schooling: The Enigma of Inequality. Springer.
  2. Collini, S. (2021). Snakes and Ladders. London Review of Books. Vol.43 (17) April 2021.
  3. Pabón, F., Leibbrandt, M., Ranchhod, V., & Savage, M. (2021). Picketty comes to South Africa. British Journal of Sociology. 2021 (72) p.106-124
  4. Chatterjee, A., Czajka., and Gethin (2021). Can Redistribution Keep Up with Inequality? Evidence from South Africa 1993-2019. World Inequality Lab. 

(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 four international assessments South Africa participates in which are TIMSS (Gr5 & 9 maths and science), PIRLS (Gr4 reading), SACMEQ (Gr6 maths and literacy) and TALIS (teacher survey).  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. This will also be useful for your pracs.

  1. *Van der Berg, S. & Gustafsson, M. (2019). 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.
  2. *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. (optional extras: Taylor & Spaull, 2015 and Lilenstein 2018 for francophone West Africa)
  3. Singh, A. (2015) How standard is a standard deviation? A cautionary note on using SDs to compare across impact evaluations in education. Development Impact. World Bank. (Online). Available: [Accessed: 11 July 2018]

(3) Early grade reading in South Africa: What do we know?

  1. *Pretorius, E., & Spaull, N. (2022) A New Era of Reading Research in South Africa.  In Spaull, N. & Pretorius, E. (Eds) Early Grade Reading in South Africa. Cape Town: Oxford University Press.
  2. *Spaull, N. & Pretorius, E. (2022). Coming or Going? The Prioritisation of Early Grade Reading in South Africa. In Spaull, N. & Pretorius, E. (Eds) Early Grade Reading in South Africa. Cape Town: Oxford University Press.
  3. Wills, G et al. (2022) What do we know about foundational skills in early grade home language reading in South Africa? In Spaull, N. & Pretorius, E. (Eds) Early Grade Reading in South Africa. Cape Town: Oxford University Press.
  4. Mohohlwane et al. (2022) A review of recent efforts to benchmark early reading skills in South African languages. In Spaull, N. & Pretorius, E. (Eds) Early Grade Reading in South Africa. Cape Town: Oxford University.
  5. *Spaull, N. & Pretorius, E. (2019). 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.

(4) Education in the time of COVID-19 in South Africa

  1. *Ardington, C., Wills, G., & Kotze, J. (2021). COVID-19 learning losses: Early grade reading in South Africa. International Journal of Educational Development, 86
  2. *Van der Berg, S., Hoadley, U., Galant, J., van Wyk, C., & Böhmer, B. (2022b). Learning Losses from

COVID-19 in the Western Cape: Evidence from Systematic Tests. RESEP.

  1. Shepherd, D. & Mohohlwane, N. (2021). The impact of COVID-19 in education – more than a year of disruption. NIDS-CRAM Wave 5 Working Paper.
  2. Spaull, N. & Van der Berg, S. (2020). Counting the cost: COVID-19 school closures in South Africa and its impact on children. South African Journal of Childhood Education. Vol 10(11).

(5) What works and what scales? Interventions in South Africa

  1. *Spaull, N., & Taylor, S. (2022). A Typology of Early Grade Reading and Mathematics Interventions in South Africa. In Spaull, N. & Taylor, S. (Eds) Early Grade Interventions in South Africa. Cape Town: OUP.
  2. *Taylor, S., & Spaull, N. (2022). What works and what scales? Returning to a tradition of evidence-based system-wide programs. In Spaull, N. & Taylor, S. (Eds) Early Grade Interventions in SA. Cape Town: OUP.
  3. Gustafsson, M. (2019). Pursuing change through policy in the schooling sector 2007-2017. In Spaull, N. & Jansen, J. (eds): South African Schooling: The Enigma of Inequality. Springer.

(6) Teachers and the budget in South Africa: The R200bn question

  1. *Spaull, N., Lilenstein, A., & Carel, D. (2020). The Race between Teacher Wages and the Budget – the case of South Africa 2008-2018. RESEP.
  2. *Van der Berg, S., Gustafsson, M., & Burger, C. (2022). School Teacher Supply and Demand in South Africa in 2019 and Beyond. Department of Higher Education and Training
  3. Gustafsson, M (2021). A teacher retirement wave is about to hit South Africa: what it means for class size. The Conversation.
  4. Gustafsson, M. (2012). Incentives for teachers within the salary system. DBE. Pretoria.
  5. Chisholm, L. (2013). Understanding the Limpopo textbook saga. HSRC. (see also pgs 57-58 of Gustafsson 2019 in Springer book)

(7) The myth of evidence-based policymaking

  1. *Spaull, N. (2021) A Primer on Advocacy. Unpublished. See folder.
  2. *White, H. (2019). The twenty-first century experimenting society: the four waves of the evidence revolution. Palgrave Communications 5(47) 2019.
  3. Cairney, P. & Oliver, K. (2017). Evidence-based policymaking is not like evidence-based medicine, so how far should you go to bridge the divide between evidence and policy? Health Research Policy and System 15:35.
  4. Ganimian, A. (2017) Not drawn to scale? RCTs and education reform in developing countries. Research on Improving Systems of Education. (Online).  [5 June 2019]
  5. Kremer, M., Brannen, C., & Glennerster, R. (2013). The Challenge of Education and Learning in the Developing World. Science 340, 297 (2013)
  6. Ravallion, M. (2020) Should the Randomistas (Continue to) Rule? Working Paper 27554. NBER Working Paper.

(8) #FeesMustFall: Who should pay for higher education?

This ‘lecture’ is actually a class debate. The class will be split into two opposing teams and the motion is “This House believes that higher education should be completely free for all students who are accepted by higher education institutions in South Africa.”

  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. Davis Tax Committee. 2016. Report on the Funding of Tertiary Education. (Online).
  3. Chapman, B. (2006) Income Contingent Loans for Higher Education: International Reforms. Handbook of the Economics of Education (Vol 2) pp 1435-1503.

(9) Social and emotional skills  (Guest lecture: Dr Heleen Hofmeyr)

  1. Durlak, J.A., Dymnicki, A.B., Taylor, R.D., Weissberg, R.P. & Schellinger, K.B. (2011). The Impact of Enhancing Students’ Social and Emotional Learning: A Meta-Analysis of School-Based Universal Interventions. Child Development. 82(1): 405-432.
  2. Kautz, T., Heckman, J.J., Diris, R. Ter Weel, B. & Borghans, L. (2014). Fostering and Measuring Skills: Improving Cognitive and Non-Cognitive Skills to Promote Lifetime Success. NBER Working Paper No. 02138. Cambridge, MA.
  3. Jukes, M.C.H., Gabrieli, P., Mgonda, N.L., Nsolenzi, F.S., Jeremiah, G., Tibenda, J.J. & Bub, K.l. (2018). “Respect is an investment”: Community perceptions of social and emotional competencies in early childhood from Mtwara, Tanzania. Global Education Review. 5(2): 160-188.

(10) TBC

(Readings to come)

(11) TBC

(Readings to come)



General Academic:


One response to “Teaching

  1. Verena mitschke

    Dear Mr Spaull,

    I’ve been a student of your class last semester. Could you send me the course outline of last year as I only find the New one but there it sais no exam.

    Kind regards,

    Verena Mitschke

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