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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

Listed author(s):
  • Martin Gustafsson

    ()

    (Department of Economics, University of Stellenbosch)

  • Stephen Taylor

    ()

    (Department of Economics and Department of Basic Education)

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.

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File URL: https://www.ekon.sun.ac.za/wpapers/2016/wp052016/wp-05-2016.pdf
File Function: First version, 2016
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Paper provided by Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 05/2016.

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Date of creation: 2016
Handle: RePEc:sza:wpaper:wpapers260
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  1. Imran Rasul & Daniel Rogger, 2013. "Management of Bureaucrats and Public Service Delivery: Evidence from the Nigerian Civil Service," STICERD - Public Economics Programme Discussion Papers 20, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
  2. Lant Pritchett & Michael Woolcock & Matt Andrews, 2013. "Looking Like a State: Techniques of Persistent Failure in State Capability for Implementation," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 49(1), pages 1-18, January.
  3. Cogneau, Denis & Moradi, Alexander, 2014. "Borders That Divide: Education and Religion in Ghana and Togo Since Colonial Times," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 74(03), pages 694-729, September.
  4. Duflo, Esther & Glennerster, Rachel & Kremer, Michael, 2008. "Using Randomization in Development Economics Research: A Toolkit," Handbook of Development Economics, Elsevier.
  5. Psacharopoulos, George, 1996. "Economics of education: A research agenda," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 339-344, October.
  6. Stephen Taylor & Patricia Watson, 2015. "The impact of study guides on “matric” performance: Evidence from a randomised experiment," Working Papers 13/2015, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
  7. 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.
  8. Nic Spaull, 2011. "A Preliminary Analysis of SACMEQ III South Africa," Working Papers 11/2011, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
  9. Daron Acemoglu & Francisco A. Gallego & James A. Robinson, 2014. "Institutions, Human Capital, and Development ," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 6(1), pages 875-912, 08.
  10. repec:unu:wpaper:wp2012-63 is not listed on IDEAS
  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.
  12. Barbara Bruns & Deon Filmer & Harry Anthony Patrinos, 2011. "Making Schools Work : New Evidence on Accountability Reforms," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 2270, October.
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