A Preliminary Analysis of SACMEQ III South Africa
Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP11/2011
Author(s): Nic Spaull
JEL Classification: I20, I21, I28
Keywords: SACMEQ, South Africa, primary education, education, education production function, education policy, economics of education
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The many and varied links between student socio-economic status and educational outcomes have been well documented in the South African economics of education literature. The strong legacy of apartheid and the consequent correlation between education and wealth have meant that, generally speaking, poorer students perform worse academically. The present study uses the recent Southern and East African Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ III) dataset for South Africa to identify those factors that have a significant effect on student maths and reading performance in Grade 6. The research confirms previous findings that socio-economic status, and particularly school socioeconomic status, is important when understanding student success or failure. Other factors which contribute significantly to student performance are homework frequency, preschool education, and the availability of reading textbooks. In contrast, teacher-subject knowledge was found to have only a modest impact on Grade 6 student performance. Policy interventions are also highlighted. The study concludes that South Africa is still a tale of two schools: one which is wealthy, functional and able to educate students, while the other is poor, dysfunctional, and unable to equip students with the necessary numeracy and literacy skills they should be acquiring in primary school. Nevertheless, it suggests that there are some options available to policy-makers which are expected to have a positive effect on student performance.