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PhD Thesis 

Candidate: Martin Gustafsson
Supervisor: Professor Servaas van der Berg
Institution: Stellenbosch University, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, Department of Economics


The over-arching concern of the three parts of the dissertation is how economics can and should influence education policymaking, the emphasis on the economics side being models of country development and the contribution made by human capital.

Part I begins with a review of economic growth theory. How educational performance and country development have been measured is then discussed, with considerable attention going towards conceptual and measurement complexities associated with the latter. An approach is presented for expanding the number of countries whose educational quality can be compared, by expanding the number of linkable testing programmes. This approach, which above all allows for the inclusion of more African and Latin American countries, is one of the key contributions made by the dissertation to the existing body of knowledge. Three existing empirical growth models are examined, including work by Hanushek and Woessman on the relationship between educational quality and income. Part I ends with a discussion on how the economics literature can best be packaged to influence education policymaking. A ‘growth simulator’ tool in Excel for informing the policy discourse is presented. The production of this tool includes establishing empirically a feasible improvement trajectory for educational quality that policymakers can use and some analysis of how linguistic fractionalisation in a country evolves over time. This tool can be considered a further key output of the dissertation. A basic model for relating educational quality, via income growth, to teacher pay, is presented.

Part II offers an analysis of UNESCO country-level data on enrolment and spending going back to 1970, with a view to establishing historical patterns that can inform education planners, particularly those in developing countries, on how budgets and enrolment expansion should be distributed across the levels of the education system. The analysis presented in Part II represents a novel way of using existing countrylevel data and can be seen as an important step towards filling a gap experienced by education policymakers, namely the paucity of empirical evidence that can guide decisions around the prioritisation of education levels. Part II moreover arrives at a few empirical findings, including the finding that enrolment and spending patterns have been systematically different in countries with faster economic growth and the finding that historical per student spending at the secondary level appears to play a larger role in development than was previously thought.

Part III contrasts the available economic advice for education policymakers with what policymakers actually appear to believe in. The focus falls, in particular, on four developing countries: South Africa, Brazil, Chile and China. A few areas where economists could explore the data to a greater degree or communicate available findings differently, in the interests of better education policies, are identified. Part III partly serves as a demonstration of how comparisons between education systems can be better oriented towards providing advice to education policymakers on questions relating to efficiency and equity.