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The when and how of leaving school: The policy implications of new evidence on secondary schooling in South Africa

Author

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  • Martin Gustafsson

    (Department of Economics, University of Stellenbosch)

Abstract

South African and international household and education datasets are analysed to characterise patterns of dropping out, grade repetition, academic under-performance and under-preparedness for post-school life in South African secondary schools. A number of measurement error problems are moreover discussed and in some cases remedied. The proportion of South African youths entering upper secondary schooling is above the trend found in comparable middle income countries, the proportion entering the last grade (Grade 12) is about average, but the proportion successfully completing secondary schooling (40%) is below average. The data suggest improving quality should be a greater planning priority than increasing enrolments. A what-if subject choice analysis using examination data moreover suggests that successful completion could be greatly enhanced by guiding students to more appropriate subject choices, possibly through a more standardised set of assessments in Grade 9. Any attempt to reduce dropping out must pay close attention to financial constraints experienced by students with respect to relatively low-cost inputs such as books. Teenage pregnancies must be reduced as these explain half of female dropping out. The quality problem in schools underlined by the fact that income returns and test score gains associated with each additional year of secondary schooling are well below those associated with a year of post-school education.

Suggested Citation

  • Martin Gustafsson, 2011. "The when and how of leaving school: The policy implications of new evidence on secondary schooling in South Africa," Working Papers 09/2011, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:sza:wpaper:wpapers137
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    File URL: https://www.ekon.sun.ac.za/wpapers/2011/wp092011/wp-09-2011.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. repec:cor:louvrp:-2120 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. World Bank, 2005. "Expanding Opportunities and Building Competencies for Young People : A New Agenda for Secondary Education," World Bank Publications - Books, The World Bank Group, number 7429.
    3. Servaas van der Berg, 2007. "Apartheid's Enduring Legacy: Inequalities in Education-super- 1," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), vol. 16(5), pages 849-880, November.
    4. מחקר - ביטוח לאומי, 2009. "Annual Survey 2008," Working Papers 18, National Insurance Institute of Israel.
    5. Hendrik van Broekhuizen & Dieter von Fintel, 2010. "Who Responds to Voluntary Cognitive Tests in Household Surveys? The Role of Labour Market Status, Respondent Confidence, Motivation and a Culture of Learning in South Africa," Working Papers 27/2010, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Martin Gustafsson & Stephen Taylor, 2013. "Treating schools to a new administration. The impact of South Africa’s 2005 provincial boundary changes on school performance," Working Papers 28/2013, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    2. Miquel Pellicer & Patrizio Piraino, 2019. "The Effect of Nonpersonnel Resources on Educational Outcomes: Evidence from South Africa," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 67(4), pages 907-934.
    3. Nicola Branson & David Lam, 2017. "The impact of the no-fee school policy on enrolment and school performance: Evidence from NIDS Waves 1-3," SALDRU Working Papers 197, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
    4. Nicola Branson & Clare Hofmeyr & David Lam, 2014. "Progress through school and the determinants of school dropout in South Africa," Development Southern Africa, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 31(1), pages 106-126, January.
    5. Wills, Gabrielle, 2016. "Principal leadership changes and their consequences for school performance in South Africa," International Journal of Educational Development, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 108-124.
    6. Servaas van der Berg & Chris van Wyk & Rebecca Selkirk, 2020. "Schools in the time of COVID-19: Possible implications for enrolment, repetition and dropout," Working Papers 20/2020, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    7. Servaas van der Berg & Cobus Burger & Ronelle Burger & Mia de Vos & Gideon du Rand & Martin Gustafsson & Eldridge Moses & Debra Shepherd & Nicholas Spaull & Stephen Taylor & Hendrik van Broekhuizen & , 2011. "Low quality education as a poverty trap," Working Papers 25/2011, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    8. Posel, Dorrit & Grapsa, Erofili, 2017. "Time to learn? Time allocations among children in South Africa," International Journal of Educational Development, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 1-10.
    9. Martin Gustafsson & Stephen Taylor, 2016. "Treating schools to a new administration: Evidence from South Africa of the impact of better practices in the system-level administration of schools," Working Papers 05/2016, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Human capital; Unemployment; Earnings function; South Africa; Secondary schools; Examinations; Education policy;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

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