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This paper investigates a disruption hypothesis that student learning is lost as a direct consequence of teacher strike action in South Africa. At face value estimates from a within-student across-subject analysis suggest that teacher strike participation negatively affects learning for students in the poorest three-quarters of schools. Strike action also limits access to nutrition as school closures prevent student participation in daily school feeding programmes. However, despite controlling for student and school level factors that may drive teacher selection into strike participation, unobserved teacher characteristics continue to bias estimates. Assuming that selection on observable characteristics can tell us something about selection on unobservable characteristics, there is an implied negative selection of teachers into strike participation.

Keywords: Teachers’ unions, strikes, student achievement, South Africa


Wills, G., 2019. Teachers’ unions and industrial action in South African primary schools: Exploring their impacts on learning. Development Southern Africa, pp.1-20.