Apartheid's Enduring Legacy: Inequalities in Education
Posted: 30 Jun 2008
Date Written: November 2007
This paper provides a broad overview of the economic dimensions of the educational situation in South Africa a decade after the political transition. An important question is whether changes since the transition have substantially ameliorated the role of race in education. Census and survey data show that quantitative educational attainment differentials (years of education) have been substantially reduced, but qualitative differentials remain larger. Despite massive resource shifts to black schools, overall matriculation results did not improve in the post-apartheid period. Thus the school system contributes little to supporting the upward mobility of poor children in the labour market. The persistence of former racial inequalities is reflected in extremely poor pass rates in mainly black schools (the majority of schools), with high standard deviations. Regressions of matriculation pass rates from school level data show that racial composition of schools - as proxy for former school department - remains a major explanatory factor besides socio-economic background (as measured by school fees set by school governing bodies) and educational inputs (measured by teacher-pupil ratios and teacher salaries as proxy for qualifications and experience). Furthermore, remarkable differentials in performance among black schools cannot be accounted for by socio-economic background or teaching resources, pointing to the importance of school management. The malfunctioning of large parts of the school system appears largely a problem of x-inefficiency rather than allocative efficiency. This requires urgent attention to the functioning of poorly performing schools, to permit continued upward mobility of the largest part of the workforce as well as to support sustained economic growth.
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