Uncovering indicators of effective school management in South Africa using the National School Effectiveness Study
For many poor South African children, who are predominantly located in the historically disadvantaged part of the school system, the ongoing low quality of education acts as a poverty trap by precluding them from achieving the level of educational outcomes necessary to be competitive in the labour market. An important question is the extent to which this low quality of education is attributable to poverty itself as opposed to other features of teaching and management that characterise these schools. The literature explaining schooling outcomes in South Africa has reached a consensus that additional educational resources are no guarantee of improved outcomes. While socio-economic status remains the most powerful determinant of educational outcomes, studies have typically struggled to isolate other school and teacher characteristics that consistently predict outcomes, leaving much of the variation in achievement unexplained. Several authors have pointed to an ineffable mix of management efficiency and teacher quality that must surely underlie this unexplained component. The National School Effectiveness Study (NSES) is the first large-scale panel study of educational achievement in South African primary schools. It examines contextually appropriate features of school management and teacher practice more thoroughly than other large sample surveys previously administered in South Africa. Using the NSES data, this paper identifies specific aspects of school organisation and teacher practice, such as the effective coverage of curriculum and completed exercises, which are associated with literacy and numeracy achievement and with the amount of learning that occurs within a year of schooling. Some suggestions are also made regarding the appropriate way to interpret these results for the purpose of policy-making.
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