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Treating schools to a new administration: Evidence from South Africa of the impact of better practices in the system-level administration of schools

Author

Listed:
  • Martin Gustafsson

    (Department of Economics, University of Stellenbosch)

  • Stephen Taylor

    (Department of Economics and Department of Basic Education)

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.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:sza:wpaper:wpapers260
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    11. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gabrielle Wills & Debra Shepherd & Janeli Kotze, 2016. "Interrogating a Paradox of Performance in the WCED: A Provincial and Regional Comparison of Student Learning," Working Papers 14/2016, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    2. Brian Levy & Robert Cameron & Ursula Hoadley & Vinothan Naidoo, 2016. "The politics and governance of basic education: A tale of two South African provinces," Global Development Institute Working Paper Series esid-067-16, GDI, The University of Manchester.
    3. Servaas van der Berg & Gabrielle Wills & Rebecca Selkirk & Charles Adams & Chris van Wyk, 2019. "The cost of repetition in South Africa," Working Papers 13/2019, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    South Africa; school improvement; mathematics education; impact evaluation;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C21 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Cross-Sectional Models; Spatial Models; Treatment Effect Models
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education

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