Starting Behind and Staying Behind in South Africa: The case of insurmountable learning deficits in mathematics

Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP27/2014
 
Publication date: 2014
 
Author(s):
[protected email address] (Department of Economics, University of Stellenbosch)
[protected email address] (Department of Economics, University of Stellenbosch)
 
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 trajectories. Two main findings are, (1) only the top 16% of South African Grade 3 children are performing at an appropriate Grade 3 level. (2) The learning gap between the poorest 60% of students and the wealthiest 20% of students is approximately three Grade-levels in Grade 3, growing to four Grade-levels by Grade 9. The paper concludes by arguing that the later in life we attempt to repair early learning deficits in mathematics, the costlier the remediation becomes.

 
JEL Classification:

I20, I21, I28

Keywords:

Mathematics, Learning Trajectories, South Africa, Hierarchical Learning, SACMEQ, TIMSS

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BER Weekly

14 June 2021
What a week it has been. Globally, US CPI inflation again rose by more than expected in May, exceeding 5% y-o-y for the first time since 2008. In most other weeks, this may have attracted a lot of local attention. However, in this case, the US news was overshadowed by several crucial SA-focused developments....

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