An economic perspective on school leadership and teachers' unions in South Africa

Wills, Gabrielle (2016-03)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2016.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This dissertation considers two factors that are considered critical to disrupting an existing culture of inefficiency in the production of learning in South Africa, namely school leadership and teachers’ unions. This first part of the dissertation positions itself within a growing discourse in the economics literature, and in local policy circles, on the importance of harnessing the role of school principals as a route to educational progress. Using a unique dataset constructed by matching administrative datasets in education, the study aims to provide greater specificity to our understanding of the labour market for school principals in South Africa. Chapter two constructs a quantitative profile of this market with implications for policy reforms in raising the calibre of school leadership. It identifies existing inequalities in the distribution of qualified and experienced principals across poorer and wealthier schools, gender disparities in principal positions, low levels of principal mobility across the public education system and high tenure. Together, the evidence points to the need for policies aimed at improving the initial match of principals to schools while developing incumbent principals over their length of tenure. The findings highlight that improving the design and implementation of policies guiding the appointment process for principals is a matter of urgency. A substantial and increasing number of principal retirements are taking place across South African schools given a rising age profile of school principals. Selection criteria need to be amended to identify relevant expertise and skills, rather than relying on principal credentials as captured in payroll data which are shown to be poor signals of principal quality. While the rising number of principal retirements presents an opportunity to replace weaker principals with better performing ones, this will be accompanied by various challenges including recruiting, selecting and hiring suitable candidates. Moreover, it takes time for school principals to have their full effect on school environments and initially, school performance may decline in response to a leadership succession. Using a fixed effects estimation approach, chapter three suggests that principal changes are indeed initially detrimental to school performance, especially in poorer schools. These results are robust to using an alternative estimation strategy following the work of Heckman, Ichimura and Todd (1997) to control for additional sources of estimation bias. The chapter also considers two mechanisms through which school leadership changes may impact on school performance, namely through rising promotion rates and teacher turnover. After the discussion on school leadership, chapter four shifts its focus to measure teacher union impacts on educational outcomes by investigating a disruption hypothesis that student learning is lost as a direct consequence of teacher participation in strike action, particularly the intensive public sector strike of 2007. The study exploits heterogeneity that exists within schools in the level of teacher union militancy to control for confounding factors that may bias estimates of strike effects. An across-subject within-student analysis, following an approach by Kingdon and Teal (2010), suggests that teacher strike participation negatively affects learning for students in the poorest three quarters of schools in South Africa. However, the discussion reveals difficulties in isolating out, specifically, unobserved teacher characteristics that may bias the observed strike effect. There is suggestive evidence that the most marginalised students in rural areas, and those that are weaker academically, are most at risk of learning losses as a result of teacher strikes. In this respect, industrial action has implications for widening existing inequalities in student achievement across the South African education system.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie proefskrif oorweeg twee faktore wat krities geag word om die huidige kultuur van ondoeltreffendheid in Suid-Afrikaanse onderwys te verbeter, naamlik skoolleierskap en onderwysvakbonde. Die eerste gedeelte van die proefskrif sluit aan by die groeiende debat in die ekonomiese literatuur en in plaaslike beleidskringe oor die belangrike rol van skoolhoofde in opvoedkundige vooruitgang. Met gebruik van ʼn unieke datastel wat saamgestel is deur administratiewe data te integreer, poog die studie om ʼn duideliker insig in die arbeidsmark vir Suid-Afrikaanse skoolhoofde te kry. Die tweede hoofstuk skep ‘n kwantitatiewe profiel van hierdie mark en bespreek beleidsopsies om skoolleierskap te verbeter. Uit die hoofstuk blyk die bestaande ongelykhede in die verspreiding van gekwalifiseerde en ervare skoolhoofde tussen armer en ryker skole, geslagsongelykhede in skoolhoof-poste, lae mobiliteit van skoolhoofde en uitgerekte ampstermyne. Ontleding hiervan dui op die behoefte aan ʼn beleid wat skoolhoofde se aanvanklike plasing in poste verbeter, en dat dié skoolhoofde terselfdertyd nuwe skoolhoofde moet oplei en vir die amp bekwaam. Die bevindinge dui daarop hoe belangrik dit is dat sowel die ontwerp as die implementering van beleid dringend verbeter. Gegewe die stygende ouderdomsprofiel van Suid-Afrikaanse skoolhoofde, staan baie van hulle op of naby aftrede. Aanstellingskriteria moet daarom aangepas word om toepaslike kundigheid en vaardighede te identifiseer, eerder as om op ʼn skoolhoof se kwalifikasies staat te maak, wat ʼn bewese swak aanwyser van die bevoegdheid van ʼn skoolhoof is. Terwyl die stygende aantal aftredes van skoolhoofde ʼn geleentheid bied om swakker skoolhoofde te vervang, is daar uitdagings in die werwing, keuring en aanstelling van gepaste kandidate. Verder neem dit ook tyd vir skoolhoofde om hulle volle impak op die skoolomgewing te maak en skoolprestasie mag aanvanklik afneem as gevolg van die verandering in leierskap. Hoofstuk 3 se vaste-effek beramingsmodel dui daarop dat ʼn verandering van skoolhoof aanvanklik nadelig is vir skoolprestasie, veral in armer skole. Dieselfde resultate word ook verkry deur van ʼn alternatiewe beramingsmetode van Heckman, Ishimura en Todd (1997) gebruik te maak, wat moontlike nie-parallelle tendense in skoolprestasie in ag neem. Die hoofstuk oorweeg ook twee meganismes waardeur leierskapsveranderinge skoolprestasie mag beïnvloed, naamlik deur versnelde promosie van leerlinge tussen grade en deur hoër onderwyseromset. Na die bespreking van skoolleierskap, skuif die klem in hoofstuk vier na die meting van die impak wat onderwysvakbonde op opvoedkundige uitkomstes het, deur ondersoek in te stel na ʼn ontwrigtingshipotese, dat die leerproses negatief beïnvloed word deur die ontwrigting wat onderwyserstakings inhou. Meer spesifiek word die invloed van die uitgebreide staking in die publieke sektor in 2007 in hierdie hoofstuk ontleed. Hierdie ontleding gebruik die heterogeniteit binne skole in onderwysers se deelname aan stakings om te kontroleer vir ander kompliserende faktore wat sydigheid in die gemete effekte van stakings mag veroorsaak. In navolging van ʼn metode van Kingdon en Teal (2010) word ʼn analise gedoen van die verskil in die prestasie van leerders in verskillende vakke wat deur verskillende onderwysers aangebied word. Die resultate dui daarop dat betrokkenheid van onderwysers by stakings ‘n negatiewe invloed het op hoeveel studente in die armer drie-kwart van Suid-Afrikaanse skole leer. Tog wys die bespreking daarop hoe moeilik dit is om die effek van onwaargenome eienskappe van onderwysers, wat sydigheid in die meting van die effek van stakings mag meebring, te isoleer. Daar is egter wel aanduidings dat gemarginaliseerde leerders in landelike gebiede, asook dié wat akademies swakker vaar, ‘n hoër risiko loop van swakker leeruitkomste as gevolg van onderwyserstakings. Gegewe die resultate lyk dit asof onderwyserstakings ongelykhede in leerderprestasie in die Suid-Afrikaanse onderwysstelsel vergroot.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/98853
This item appears in the following collections: