PB05/2011

For richer, for poorer? Can lessons learnt from wealthy schools be applied to help poor schools deliver better results?

Stellenbosch Policy Brief No. 05/2011

Author(s): Debra Shepherd

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Abstract:

There are large disparities in educational performance amongst South African schools, with historically white schools significantly outperforming historically black (and generally poorer) schools. Indeed, research indicates that South Africa’s overall lack of performance – compared internationally and regionally – can mainly be attributed to the under-performance of learners in poor, black schools. It is tempting to look at the characteristics and practices of well-performing, affluent schools when formulating policies to improve the effectiveness of poor schools. But it is not necessarily true that processes and practices will translate into improved performance as they travel across the socio-economic divide. A recent study looks at survey data to form a more holistic view of the main factors that may affect school performance. It finds that although some universal truths hold, there are important nuances that should be considered when formulating policies to improve the effectiveness of poorer schools. These findings and resultant policy recommendations are presented below.