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Stellenbosch Policy Brief No. 02/2011

It is popular to assume that poorer primary school learners struggle to perform due to their socio-economic status and the resultant lack of access to good school resources and teachers. Still, children in South African primary schools underperform compared to their counterparts in other Southern- and East African countries, in spite of benefiting from better access to resources, more qualified teachers and lower pupil-to-teacher ratios. Are there other factors at play, which preclude South African primary schools from making the best use of their resources? A recent paper looks at the performance of primary school learners in standardised literacy and numeracy tests. It concludes that although socio-economic status and access to good resources both play a role in educational outcomes, an improvement in either of those areas is meaningless If schools aren’t managed efficiently. This underlines the case for prioritising policies aimed at improving managerial practices in primary schools.