The low quality of South African schooling has been widely confirmed through international tests of mathematics and literacy. The 2016 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) results indicate that 78% of grade 4 children cannot read for meaning. In this context, it is useful to ask whether there are exceptions to the norm: are there schools serving the poor that produce at least adequate levels of learning? This brief describes the findings of a rigorous search process to identify high-performing primary schools accessible to the poor, with a specific focus on three provinces: Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo. While we failed to find high-quality no-fee schools, variation in learner performance exists among no-fee schools suggesting that improved levels of learning quality are attainable.
Learner flows through schools: Using high quality administrative data to understand education system performance
The report analyses school flows, repetition, and dropout using a novel analysis of school-based assessments, and how well these predict future performance and learner flows. An important finding is that the high repetition and dropout rates in high schools imply an internal efficiency rate of only 49% (measured in terms of the years of enrolment in high school for every matric pass).
How basic education has improved in the Western Cape in the past six years
Repetition is a serious problem in South Africa, and the Western Cape is no exception. In any given year between 2007 and 2019, repetition has ranged between 72,000 and 100,000, with notable enrolment bulges in grades 1, 4, 9 and 10. An important consequence of repetition—when not cancelled by dropout—is an increase in the proportion of children who are older than what would be considered appropriate for a particular grade. For example, at least a third of grade 12 learners in 2019 were overage.
Learner flow through patterns in the Western Cape using CEMIS datasets from 2007 to 2019: A longitudinal cohort analysis
Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP01/2021
Publication date: February 2021