Nic Spaull

Research Fellow

Nic Spaull is currently a Research Fellow at the Research on Socioeconomic Policy (RESEP) group. He has recently returned from Paris where he was a Thomas J Alexander Fellow at the OECD, and before that a Visiting Scholar in the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University in the United States. Nic has a PhD in economics and has published numerous journal articles on education, focusing on assessment, accountability, literacy and education policy in South Africa. He is also a Research Fellow at the University of Johannesburg and sits on the Joint Advisory Committee of the South African Human Rights Commission. His current research focuses on exceptional township and rural schools in South Africa as part of an ESRC/DFID grant for 2016/17/18. Nic has been involved in a number of research projects for local and international organisations, including the South African Presidency, the Department of Basic Education, UNICEF, the EU, UNESCO and SACMEQ. The most recent of which was the “Binding Constraints in Education” project for the South African Presidency and the EU. He advises numerous NGOs, policy-makers and grant-making bodies, and also regularly updates his website (nicspaull.com) with new research and articles he finds interesting.

NIDS-CRAM Wave 1 Synthesis Report: Overview and Findings.

The overview and findings of NIDS-CRAM wave 1, consisting of work by a national consortium of 30 social science researchers from five South African universities.…
September 29, 2020 By: Nic Spaull, Cally Ardington, Ihsaan Bassier, et al. PDF

The Race Between Teacher Wages and the Budget

This report determines how the real resources available to the average child in South Africa have changed over the period 2008 to 2018.
June 19, 2020 By: Adaiah Lilenstein, Nic Spaull, Servaas van der Berg, & David Carel PDF

Counting the Cost: COVID-19 School Closures in South Africa & its Impact on Children

Van der Berg, S & Spaull, N. (2020). Counting the Cost: COVID-19 school closures in South Africa & its impacts on children. Research on Socioeconomic…

Who should go Back to School First in South Africa?

Who should go back to school first in South Africa? Children under 10 are least susceptible to COVID-19, they should go back first.   Spaull,…
May 10, 2020 By: Nic Spaull PDF

Assessing Early Literacy Outcomes in Burkina Faso and Senegal: Using DHS and PASEC to Combine Access and Quality

  Book: Improving Early Literacy Outcomes Chapter: Assessing Early Literacy Outcomes in Burkina Faso and Senegal: Using DHS and PASEC to Combine Access and Quality   https://brill.com/view/title/55194?lang=en…
November 12, 2019 By: Nic SpaullAdaiah Lilenstein PDF

Learning to Read and Write for Meaning and Pleasure

Spaull, N. (2019). Learning to Read and Write for Meaning and Pleasure. In Spaull, N. & Comings, J. (Eds), Improving Early Literacy Outcomes. Leiden, The Netherlands:…
November 11, 2019 By: Nic Spaull PDF

Still Falling at the First Hurdle: Examining Early grade Reading in South Africa

Spaull, N. & Pretorius, E. (2019). Still Falling at the First Hurdle: Examining Early grade Reading in South Africa. In Spaull, N., & Jansen, J.…
November 11, 2019 By: Nic Spaull, Elizabeth Pretorius PDF

Equity: A Price Too High to Pay?

Spaull, N. (2019). Equity: A Price Too High to Pay? In Spaull, N., & Jansen, J. (Eds), South African Schooling: The Enigma of Inequality. Springer…
November 11, 2019 By: Nic Spaull PDF

Creating reading fluency benchmarks in African languages

Stellenbosch Policy Brief No. 02/2018
Learning to read for meaning is the most important skill that children learn in primary school. If a child cannot read well, then they will…
September 4, 2018 By: Nic Spaull, Nompumelelo Mohohlwane, Elizabeth Pretorius PDF

The ‘Martha Effect’: The compounding female advantage in South African higher education

Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP14/2017
Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP14/2017 Publication date: November 2017 Abstract: In this paper we use population-wide panel data to follow every South African student…
July 16, 2018 By: Nic Spaull, Hendrik van Broekhuizen PDF

Disentangling the language effect in South African schools: Measuring the impact of ‘language of assessment’ in grade 3 literacy and numeracy

Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP19/2016
Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP19/2016 Abstract: The aim of this paper is to exploit an unusual occurrence whereby a large group of South African…
July 4, 2018 By: Nic Spaull PDF

Who makes it into PISA? Understanding the impact of sample eligibility using Turkey as a case study (PISA 2003- PISA 2012)

Spaull, N. (2017) Who makes it into PISA? Understanding the impact of sample eligibility using Turkey as a case study (PISA 2003- PISA 2012). OECD…
March 13, 2018 By: Nic Spaull PDF

Identifying Binding Constraints in Education

Synthesis Report for the Programme to Support Pro-Poor Policy Development (PSPPD) This research report provides an overview of a large research project undertaken by a…

A Preliminary Analysis of SACMEQ III South Africa

Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP11/2011
Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP11/2011 Abstract: The many and varied links between student socio-economic status and educational outcomes have been well documented in the…
October 16, 2017 By: Nic Spaull PDF

Poverty & Privilege: Primary School Inequality in South Africa

Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP13/2012
Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP13/2012 Abstract: Although racial segregation has been abolished for 18 years now, schools which served predominantly White students under apartheid…
October 16, 2017 By: Nic Spaull PDF

“Effective enrolment” – Creating a composite measure of educational access and educational quality to accurately describe education system performance in sub-Saharan Africa.

Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP21/2012
Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP21/2012 Abstract: In this paper we question the existing practice of reporting enrolment statistics that ignore quality, but also quality-statistics…
October 16, 2017 By: Nic Spaull PDF

The effects of rapidly expanding primary school access on effective learning: The case of Southern and Eastern Africa since 2000

Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP01/2013
Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP01/2013 Abstract: Have recent expansions of access to primary schooling in African countries led to deterioration in the quality of…
October 16, 2017 By: Nic Spaull, Stephen Taylor PDF

What do we know about primary teachers’ mathematical content knowledge in South Africa? An analysis of SACMEQ 2007

Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP13/2014
Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP13/2014 Publication date: 2014 Abstract: Primary school mathematics teachers should, at the most basic level, have mastery of the content…
October 16, 2017 By: Nic Spaull, Hamsa Venkat PDF

Examining oral reading fluency among grade 5 rural English Second Language (ESL) learners in South Africa: An analysis of NEEDU 2013

Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP09.2015
Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP09.2015 Publication date: 2015 Abstract: The ability to read for meaning and pleasure is arguably the most important skill children…
October 16, 2017 By: Nic Spaull, Kim Draper PDF

Learning to read and reading to learn

Stellenbosch Policy Brief No. 04/2016
Stellenbosch Policy Brief No. 04/2016 Abstract: Reading for meaning and pleasure is arguably the most important skill children learn in primary school. Since almost all…
October 16, 2017 By: Nic Spaull PDF

Excessive class sizes in the Foundation Phase

Stellenbosch Policy Brief No. 05/2016
Stellenbosch Policy Brief No. 05/2016 Abstract: In previous research we have stressed the importance of learning to read by the end of Grade 3 (see…
October 16, 2017 By: Nic Spaull PDF

SA learners perform poorly relative to local and regional standards

Stellenbosch Policy Brief No. 01/2012
Stellenbosch Policy Brief No. 01/2012 Abstract: Despite positive trends in completion rates and Grade R enrolment, staggering numbers of South African learners continue to lack…
October 16, 2017 By: Nic Spaull PDF

Identifying policy priorities to improve outcomes for poor primary school learners

Stellenbosch Policy Brief No. 03/2011
Stellenbosch Policy Brief No. 03/2011 Abstract: Socio-economic status has a significant impact on primary school learner performance. Poorer learners often suffer poor educational outcomes: They…
October 16, 2017 By: Nic Spaull PDF

Getting reading right: Building firm foundations

Introduction The Millennium Development Goals aimed to achieve universal access to primary education by 2015. Attendance rates in South Africa remain high, with 97% of…
March 13, 2017 By: Nic Spaull, Ursula Hoadley PDF

Disentangling the language effect in South African schools: Measuring the impact of ‘language of assessment’ in grade 3 literacy and numeracy

Abstract The aim of this article is to exploit an unusual occurrence whereby a large group of South African grade 3 students were tested twice,…
August 13, 2016 By: Nic Spaull PDF

Exploring relationships between oral reading fluency and reading comprehension amongst English second language readers in South Africa

  Abstract Most analyses of oral reading fluency (ORF) are based on L1 reading, and the norms that have been developed in English are based…
February 12, 2016 By: Nic Spaull, Elizabeth Pretorius PDF

Measuring access to learning over a period of increased access to schooling: The case of Southern and Eastern Africa since 2000

  Abstract This paper examines the extent to which increased access to primary schooling in ten Southern and East African countries between 2000 and 2007…
December 25, 2015 By: Nic Spaull, Stephen Taylor PDF

Starting behind and staying behind in South Africa: The case of insurmountable learning deficits in mathematics

Abstract This study quantifies a year’s worth of mathematics learning in South Africa (0.3 standard deviations) and uses this measure to develop empirically calibrated learning…
November 25, 2015 By: Nic Spaull, Janeli Kotzé PDF

Education Quality in South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa: An Economic Approach

Thesis (PhD)—Stellenbosch University, 2015.
Candidate: Nic Spaul Supervisor: Professor Servaas van der Berg Institution: Stellenbosch University, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, Department of Economics Abstract: Education has always occupied a central…
October 16, 2015 By: Nic Spaull, Servaas van der Berg PDF

Accountability and Capacity in South African Education

  Abstract The aim of the study is to discuss the notion of accountability with respect to education in South Africa. Starting with an overview…
September 12, 2015 By: Nic Spaull PDF

What do we know about primary teachers’ mathematical content knowledge in South Africa? An analysis of SACMEQ 2007

  Abstract There is consensus in the international mathematics teacher education literature that teachers should, at the most basic level, have mastery of the content…
July 25, 2015 By: Nic Spaull, Hamsa Venkat PDF

Examining oral reading fluency among rural Grade 5 English Second Language (ESL) learners in South Africa: An analysis of NEEDU 2013

  Abstract The ability to read for meaning and pleasure is arguably the most important skill children learn in primary school. One integral component of…
June 8, 2015 By: Nic Spaull, Kim Draper PDF

Access to What? Creating a Composite Measure of Educational Quantity and Educational Quality for 11 African Countries

Abstract The aim of the current study is to create a composite statistic of educational quantity and educational quality by combining household data (Demographic and…
March 8, 2015 By: Nic Spaull, Stephen Taylor PDF

The Gospel according to Banerjee and Duflo

  Excerpt: In their latest book, Poor Economics, Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee present a highly readable overview of the problems facing the world’s poor…
June 21, 2014 By: Nic Spaull PDF

Poverty & Privilege: Primary School Inequality in South Africa

  Abstract: The strong legacy of apartheid and the consequent correlation between education and wealth have meant that, generally speaking, poorer South African students perform…
October 25, 2013 By: Nic Spaull PDF