Top marks vs 'could do better': Experts probe school performance riddle
Why does one school in a disadvantaged area excel‚ while another nearby struggles?
Finding the answer to that question is the target of top South African education researchers who have been awarded UK funding in their quest.
The study‚ led by Nic Spaull‚ Servaas van der Berg and Gabrielle Wills from the economics department at Stellenbosch University‚ will focus on 60 primary schools in the Western Cape‚ KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo.
Spaull said they would pair up schools. "In each province we will select 10 outlier schools from rural areas and/or townships‚ and each exceptional school will be matched to a neighbouring school that is performing typically for that area‚" he said.
"By selecting schools that are serving the same community‚ that typically have the same government resources and district support‚ we hope to better understand which school factors lead to success in these contexts and whether they are common or different across the three provinces."
The team was particularly interested in school leadership‚ he said‚ and aimed to develop a way of replicating good practices in high-functioning schools.
"We want to understand to what extent school leadership and management practices are correlated with student outcomes in these schools and which of the various measures are the most closely associated with achievement.
"The focus of the research initiative is to better understand how some schools in challenging contexts manage to succeed against the considerable odds that they are up against.
"We are currently in discussions with the national and provincial education systems and actively recruiting fieldworker researchers for our initial school visits later in the year."
The research is one of eight projects funded this year by the UK Economic and Social Research Council and Department for International Development.
Another of the eight is led by Melanie Walker‚ from the Centre for Research on Higher Education and Research at the University of the Free State. Her study is called: "Inclusive higher education learning outcomes for rural and township youth: developing a multi-dimensional capabilities-based higher education index."
TMG Digital/Cape Town Bureau