Education quality in South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa : an economic approach

Spaull, Nicholas (2015-04)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Education has always occupied a central role in the discipline of economics, featuring prominently in the theoretical constructs of the discipline and, more recently, in their empirical applications. While one can trace the origins of Human Capital theory all the way back to Adam Smith’s ‘The Wealth of Nations’, the two major advances in our understanding of education’s role in economic development transpired in the last 50 years. The first was half way through the 20th century with the work of work of Mincer (1958), Schultz (1961) and particularly that of Becker (1962) who formalized the idea of Human Capital. The second advance was at the turn of the 21st century when Hanushek and Kimko (and later Wößmann) incorporated measures of education quality into their models of economic growth. This latest strand of research serves as the point of departure for this thesis, placing education quality at the centre of the discussion. The thesis begins by focussing on the South African case and highlighting three broad issues that characterise education in the country: (1) the high levels of inequality that can be seen when comparing student performance by race, language, geographic location and socioeconomic status. New evidence is presented to show that South Africa does indeed have two public schooling systems, reiterating and confirming the findings of other South African scholars. (2) Using intra-survey benchmarks of student achievement, Chapter 2 develops a new method of quantifying learning deficits in mathematics by using three different datasets covering grades 3, 4, 5, 6 and 9. The learning gap between the poorest 60% of students and the wealthiest 20% of students is found to be approximately three grade-levels in grade 3 and grows to between four and five grade-levels by grade 9. (3) The focus then shifts to the complex issue of language and performance, which is addressed in Chapter 3. Here the aim is to exploit an unusual occurrence whereby a large group of South African students were tested twice, one month apart, on the same test in different languages. Using a simplified difference-in-difference methodology it becomes possible to identify the causal impact of writing a test in English when English is not a student’s home language. The final two chapters of the thesis widen the remit of analysis to include 11 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, viz. Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Here the aim is to develop a composite measure of education access and education quality by combining household data (DHS) on grade completion and survey data (SACMEQ) on cognitive outcomes. The new measure, termed access-to-literacy and access-to-numeracy is reported for all countries and important sub-groups in Chapter 4. The method is then used in Chapter 5 to compare access-to-learning over a period of increased access to schooling (2000-2007). In all countries there was an improvement in access to literacy and numeracy, challenging the widely held perception that there is always an access-quality trade-off in education. In particular, girls and those in relatively poor households benefited most from this improvement in access to literacy and numeracy. The thesis ultimately concludes that if children are to realize their full potential, the expansion of physical access to schooling in the developing world must be accompanied by meaningful learning opportunities. The acquisition of knowledge, skills and values must be the central aim of educational expansion.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Onderwys het nog altyd ʼn rol in ekonomie as vakgebied gespeel. Dit is verstaanbaar, want vaardighede en onderwys was nog altyd ʼn prominente deel van die teoretiese konstrukte en meer onlangs ook van empiriese toepassings in die dissipline. Terwyl die oorsprong van menslike-kapitaalteorie teruggevoer kan word na Adam Smith se Wealth of Nations, het die twee grootste deurbrake met die verstaan van onderwys se rol in ekonomiese ontwikkeling in die laaste vyftig jaar plaasgevind. Die werk van Mincer (1958), Schultz (1961) en veral Becker (1962), wat in die middel van die vorige eeu formele gestalte aan die begrip ‘menslike kapitaal’ gegee het, was die eerste deurbraak. Die tweede deurbraak was teen die eeuwending toe Hanushek en Kimko (en later Wößmann) maatstawwe van onderwysgehalte in hulle ekonomiese groeimodelle begin insluit het. Hierdie nuwe tak van die navorsing plaas onderwys vierkant in die sentrum en dien as vertrekpunt vir hierdie proefskrif. Die proefskrif begin deur aandag op drie breë kwessies te vestig wat kenmerkend is van onderwys in Suid-Afrika: (1) Die hoë vlakke van ongelykheid volgens ras, taal, geografiese gebied en sosio-ekonomiese status in studente se prestasie. (2) In hoofstuk 2 word ʼn nuwe metode aangebied om leeragterstrande kwantitatief te meet met behulp van norme van leerlingprestasie in skoolvlak-opnames vir grade 3, 4, 5, 6 en 9. Daar word bevind dat die leergaping tussen die armste 60% en die rykste 20% van studente in graad 3 ongeveer drie jaar is en teen graad 9 tot vier of vyf jaar aangroei. (3) Die fokus verskuif daarna na die verwikkelde kwessie van taal en skoolprestasie, wat in hoofstuk 3 bespreek word. Hier is die doel om die ongewone geval uit te buit waar ʼn groot groep Suid-Afrikaanse leerlinge binne die verloop van ʼn maand tweemaal dieselfde toets geskryf het, maar in twee verskillende tale. Met behulp van ʼn vereenvoudigde verskil-tussen-verskille-benadering is dit moontlik om te bepaal hoe groot die kousale effek is waar ʼn leerling wie se moedertaal nie Engels is nie die toets in Engels moes skryf. Die laaste twee hoofstukke van die proefskrif bevat ʼn wyer analise van elf lande in Sub-Sahara Afrika, naamlik Kenia, Lesotho, Malawi, Mosambiek, Namibia, Suid-Afrika, Swaziland, Tanzanië, Uganda, Zambië en Zimbabwe. Die doel is om ʼn saamgestelde maatstaf van onderwys-toegang en -gehalte te skep deur huishoudingsdata (DHS) oor graadvoltooiing en skoolopnamedata (SACMEQ) oor kognitiewe uitkomste te kombineer. Die nuwe maatstaf, genaamd ‘toegang-tot-geletterdheid’ en ‘toegang-tot-syfervaardigheid’, word in hoofstuk 4 vir al die lande en subgroepe opgestel. Die metode word dan in hoofstuk 5 gebruik om toegang-tot-leergeleenthede te vergelyk oor ʼn periode waartydens skooltoegang verbreed het (2000-2007). Daar was ʼn verbetering in toegang tot geletterdheid en syfervaardigheid in alle lande, teenstrydig met die wyd-gehuldigde siening dat daar altyd ʼn afruiling tussen toegang en gehalte van onderwys bestaan. In besonder word bevind dat meisies sowel as kinders uit arm huishoudings die meeste by die toename in toegang tot geletterdheid en syfervaardigheid gebaat het. Die gevolgtrekking is dat die vervulling van die potensiaal van kinders in die ontwikkelende wêreld vereis dat die verbreding van fisiese toegang tot skole met beduidende leergeleenthede gepaard moet gaan. Die aanleer van kennis, vaardighede en waardes moet die sentrale doel van die uitbreiding van onderwysgeleenthede wees.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/96775
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