Ph.D. Thesis – P. Armstrong

ARMSTRONG, PAULA. (2015). Teachers in the South African Education System: An Economic Perspective.

Ph.D. Thesis

Author(s): Paula Armstrong

Supervisor: Professor Servaas van der Berg

Institution: Stellenbosch University, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, Department of Economics

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Chapter 1 investigates teacher wages in the South African labour market, in order to ascertain whether teaching is a financially attractive profession, and whether high ability individuals are likely to be attracted to the teaching force. Making use of labour force survey data for the years 2000 to 2007 and for 2010, wage returns to educational attainment and experience are measured for teachers, non-teachers and non-teaching professionals. The returns to higher levels of education for teachers are significantly lower than for non-teachers and non-teaching professionals. Similarly, the age-wage profile for teachers is significantly flatter than it is for non-teachers, indicating that there is little wage incentive to remain in teaching beyond roughly 12 years. The profession is therefore unlikely to attract high ability individuals who are able to collect attractive remuneration elsewhere in the labour market.

Chapter 2 deals with explicit teacher incentives in education. It provides a technical analysis of Holstrom and Milgrom’s (1991) multitasking model and Kandel and Lazear’s (1992) model of peer pressure as an incentivising force, highlighting aspects of these models that are necessary to ensure that incentive systems operate successfully. The chapter provides an overview of incentive systems internationally, discussing elements of various systems that may be useful in a South African setting. The prospects for the introduction of incentives in South Africa are discussed, with the conclusion that the systems in place at the moment are not conducive to introducing teacher incentives. There are however models in Chile and Brazil, for example, that may work effectively in a South African setting, given their explicit handling of inequality within the education system. Chapter 3 makes use of hierarchical linear modelling to investigate which teacher characteristics impact significantly on student performance. Using data from the SACMEQ III study of 2007, an interesting and potentially important finding is that younger teachers are better able to improve the mean mathematics performance of their students. Furthermore, younger teachers themselves perform better on subject tests than do their older counterparts. Changes in teacher education in the late 1990s and early 2000s may explain the differences in the performance of younger teachers relative to their older counterparts. However, further investigation is required to fully understand these differences.