The Cost of Repetition in South Africa

Stellenbosch Economic Working Papers: WP13/2019

74 Pages Posted: 9 Jan 2020

See all articles by Servaas van der Berg

Servaas van der Berg

Stellenbosch University

Gabrielle Wills

Stellenbosch University

Rebecca Selkirk

Dept of Economics, Stellenbosch University

Charles aDAMS

Department of Economics, University of the Western Cape

Chris van Wyk

Stellenbosch University - Department of Economics

Date Written: August 26, 2019

Abstract

An almost unnoticed problem in the South African education system is the high rate of grade repetition. In this report, a combination of household and administrative datasets is used to identify patterns in learner repetition and dropout in South African schooling and the costs associated with these issues. According to the most conservative estimate, the number of learners in public schools repeating in grades 1 to 12 could have been 1 180 000. In monetary terms, this implies that the cost of having repeaters in the public education system was at least R20 billion (in 2018 prices), absorbing 8% of the total national budget allocated to basic education in 2018/2019. At least a half of these repetition costs is attributed to the high prevalence of repetition in the secondary school phase, with the largest number of repeaters located in grade 10 (at least 1 in every 5 grade 10 learners repeat). Despite the promulgation of repetition policy that limits the number of times learners can repeat a school phase, repetition trends in the past decade display a strong inertia, especially in higher grades. To monitor these trends better, and to track the implementation of these policies, significant improvements will need to be made to the quality of reporting on repeaters and dropout in EMIS data. While repetition is a problem, it is merely a symptom of a weakly functioning education system. The repetition debate is thus secondary to the need to address the quality of the education provided in our schools, and particularly in the foundation phase. Quality improvements will also make it easier to implement sensible policies on repetition and to provide remediation and support where these are needed. Moreover, by freeing resources currently needed to deal with repetition, improved education quality would also make remediation more feasible.

Keywords: education, repetition, drop-out, education finance, human capital, economic development, South Africa

JEL Classification: I220, O150, H410

Suggested Citation

Van der Berg, Servaas and Wills, Gabrielle and Selkirk, Rebecca and Adams, Charles and van Wyk, Chris, The Cost of Repetition in South Africa (August 26, 2019). Stellenbosch Economic Working Papers: WP13/2019, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3505854 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3505854

Servaas Van der Berg (Contact Author)

Stellenbosch University ( email )

Private Bag X1
Stellenbosch, Western Cape 7602
South Africa

Gabrielle Wills

Stellenbosch University ( email )

Private Bag X1
Stellenbosch, Western Cape 7602
South Africa

Rebecca Selkirk

Dept of Economics, Stellenbosch University ( email )

Private Bag X1
Matieland, 7602
South Africa

Charles Adams

Department of Economics, University of the Western Cape ( email )

Chris Van Wyk

Stellenbosch University - Department of Economics ( email )

Private Bag X1
Matieland, 7602
South Africa

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
33
Abstract Views
235
PlumX Metrics