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Social Policy: Education Development Economics ( Hons ) 17 April 2012 Nicholas Spaull Social Policy & Education. Firstly , what is social policy?

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Social Policy: Education

Development Economics (Hons)

17 April 2012

Nicholas Spaull

social policy education
Social Policy & Education

Firstly, what is social policy?

“Social policy primarily refers to the guidelines, principles, legislation and activities that affect the living conditions conducive to human welfare”

“Public policy and practice in the areas of health care, human services, criminal justice, inequality, education, and labour”

“Social Policy is defined as actions that affect the well-being of members of a society through shaping the distribution of and access to goods and resources in that society”

social policy education1
Social Policy & Education
  • Secondly, how does education fit into it?
    • Most areas of social policy influence education (in some way), and are influenced by education (in some way)
    • Bidirectional causality 
    • Multiple benefits of education…
benefits of education



Benefits of education




  • Improved human rights
  • Empowerment of women
  • Reduced societal violence
  • Promotion of a national (as opposed to regional or ethnic) identity
  • Increased social cohesion
  • Lower fertility
  • Improved child health
  • Preventative health care
  • Demographic transition
  • Improvements in productivity
  • Economic growth
  • Reduction of inter-generational cycles of poverty
  • Reductions in inequality




Specific references: lower fertility (Glewwe, 2002), improved child health (Currie, 2009), reduced societal violence (Salmi, 2006), promotion of a national - as opposed to a regional or ethnic - identity (Glewwe, 2002), improved human rights (Salmi, 2006), increased social cohesion (Heyneman, 2003), Economic growth – see any decent Macro textbook, specifically for cognitive skills see (Hanushek & Woessman 2008)

social policy education2
Social Policy & Education
  • Secondly, how does education fit into it?
    • Education itself affects society & the individual in real and meaningful ways:
      • Transforms individual capabilities, values, aspirations and desires (see Sen)
      • Allows individuals to think, feel and act in different ways
      • Enables new ways of organizing and supporting social action that depend on numeracy and literacy, technologies of communication and abstract thinking skills (Lewin, 2007). Democratic participation, knowledge creation etc.
      • Education increases peoples ability to add value (productivity)
      • “Modernising societies use educational access and attainment as a primary mechanism to sort and select subsequent generations into different social and economic roles” (Lewin, 2007: 3) Distribution of income
theory human capital
Theory: Human Capital

Education increases peoples ability to add value (productivity)  HCM

+ =  

“The failure to treat human resources explicitly as a form of capital, as a produced means of production, as the product of investment, has fostered the retention of the classical notion of labour as a capacity to do manual work requiring little knowledge and skill, a capacity with which, according to this notion, labourers are endowed about equally. This notion of labour was wrong in the classical period and it is patently wrong now. Counting individuals who can and want to work and treating such a count as a measure of the quantity of an economic factor is no more meaningful than it would be to count the number of all manner of machines to determine their economic importance” (Schultz, 1961, p. 3).

Incr wage

Incr MP of L


Skills & health

Incr profits

theory sorting signalling
Theory: Sorting & signalling
  • Education does not improve productivity or produce HC, instead acts as a signal of innate productivity/IQ/motivation.
    • Those with higher productivity/IQ/motivation will find it easier to get higher levels of education than those with lower P/IQ/M
  • Do we care if it is HCM or Signalling?
    • Yes! Implications for public investment.
elusive equity
Elusive equity
  • Given the strong links between education and income, educational inequality is a fundamental determinant of income inequality.
  • Clear need to understand SA educational inequality if we are to understand SA income inequality.
  • High inequality + unemployment 2 of the most severe problems facing SA
    • Educational quality is intimately intertwined with both of these.
  • “Education shall be free, compulsory, universal and equal for all children” (Freedom Charter)
elusive equity1
Elusive equity
  • IQ
  • Motivation
  • Social networks
  • Discrimination
theory education in sa
Theory – education in SA
  • Type of tertiary education (quality) - institution and field of study
  • Demand and supply
  • Individual motivation
  • Parental IQ (assortative mating)
  • Maternal health
  • Nutrition
  • Early cognitive stimulation: preschool (quantity & quality), home environment

South Africa

  • Average school SES
  • Language of learning & teaching (LOLT)
  • Teacher quality
  • Peer effects
  • Subject choice
  • Cost of tertiary education (explicit & implicit costs)
  • Parental & personal aspirations and perceptions
  • Society/culture

(See Taylor, 2010)

intergenerational poverty
Intergenerational poverty

Ideal world (AKA Finland  )

  • Means blind
    • Ideally, an education system should be ‘means blind’ in that it offers equal educational opportunities to all students.
  • Meritocratic
    • Ideally, an individuals success at school (and later in the labour-market) should depend on ability and effort not class or wealth.
  • In SA, neither of these criteria are met. Low quality education is a poverty trap.
two education systems not one
Two education systems not one


NSESGr 4 (Taylor, 2011)

  • Mean >> median
  • Average SA student does not exist in any meaningful sense. Most average figures overestimate what the majority of SA students can do


PIRLSGr 5 (Shepherd, 2011)

Socioeconomic status

SACMEQGr 6 (Spaull, 2011)

educational inequality
Educational inequality

Average White Gr3 student knows more than the average Black Gr5 student (wrote same test).

Does this mean more resources is the answer?

Yamauchi, 2011

Taylor, 2011

resources the issue
Resources the issue?

More reading textbooks

More maths textbooks

 $79/pupil

 $1225/pupil



conclusions & recommendations

  • If not the quality of education, what is the driving force behind income inequality?
  • Why is it so difficult to change educational outcomes? (18 years since 1994!)
  • What are the key interactions between education and health/social-security?
  • What do you think are the most important points you’ve heard today?

Persistent patterns of poverty and privilege

  • Educational inequality is at the heart of income inequality and poverty
    • Increasing wages for the majority of Black labour market entrants is necessary to lower income inequality
    • This is not possible without improving the quality of education they receive
  • SA has 2 education systems not one
    • Implications for reporting (means are misleading)
    • Implications for policy
  • SA cannot convert material advantage into cognitive skills
    • Inefficient use of resources
  • Get the basics right
    • Teachers need to be in school teaching
    • Every child (teacher) needs access to adequate learning (teaching) materials
    • Every school should meet basic sanitation and health requirements
    • Every child should receive one year of adequate quality preschool education
    • No child should be hungry at school (for social & cognitive reasons)
    • Continuous diagnostic testing to figure out what children actually know
    • Make sure that the curriculum is tailored to the educational needs of the majority of students, not the top 15%
    • Every student MUST master the basics of foundational numeracy and literacy – these are the building blocks of further education – weak foundations = recipe for disaster
    • SA is a middle income country which spends 20% (!) of all government expenditure on education – this is not rocket science.

[ANA’s and workbooks are a very good sign – (but) need consistency and time]

  • Acknowledge the extent of the problem
      • Low quality education is one of the three largest crises facing our country (along with HIV/AIDS and unemployment). Need the political will and public support for widespread reform.
  • Experiment to figure out what works
      • More of the same hasn’t worked  Need to try new things and rigorously evaluate them to see what works.
        • Workbooks & ANA’s are a positive sign (Workbook delivery?)
        • Failed programmes provide useful information when acknowledged & disseminated.
      • Leave existing salaries the same but pay good teachers more – why not?
  • Increase accountability, information & transparency
      • Where is the money going?
      • Deal ruthlessly with corruption – this is a social crime.
      • For at least one grade (Gr6?) get ANA externally validated by an independent body like Umalusi and get this information to parents  need to empower parents with information in an accessible format
  • Becker, G. (1962). Investment in Human Capital: A Theoretical Analysis. The Journal of Political Economy, 70(5), 9-49.
  • Currie, J. (2009). Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Socioeconomic Status, Poor Health in Childhood, and Human Capital Development. Journal of Economic Literature, 47(1), 87-122.
  • Donalson, A. (1992). Content, Quality and Flexibility: The Economics of Education System Change. Spotlight 5/92. Johannesburg: South African Institute of Race Relations.
  • Fleisch, B. (2008). Primary Education in Crisis: Why South African schoolchildren underachieve in reading and mathematics. Cape Town. : Juta & Co.
  • Hanushek, E. & Woessmann, L. (2008). The Role of Cognitive Skills in Economic Development. Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research Working Paper No. 07-34.
  • Hoadley, U. (2010). What do we know about teaching and learning in primary schools in South Africa? Stellenbosch: Appendix B to Van der Berg, S; Meyer, H; Reeves, C; van Wyk, C; Hoadley, U; Bot, M; & Armstrong, P 2010. 'Grade 3 Improvement Project: Main report and Recommendations" for Western Cape Education Department.
  • Schultz, T. (1961). Investment in Human Capital. The American Economic Review, 51 (1), 1-17.
  • Shepherd, D. (2011). Constraints to School Effectiveness: What prevents poor schools from delivering results? Stellenbosch Economic Working Papers 05/11.
  • Spaull, N. (2011). Primary School Performance in Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa: A Comparative Analysis of SACMEQ III. SACMEQ Working Papers , 1-74.
  • Taylor, S. (2011). Uncovering Indicators of Effective School Management in South Africa using the National School Effectiveness Study. Stellenbosch Economic Working Papers .
  • Van der Berg, S. (2007). Apartheid's Enduring Legacy: Inequalities in Education. Journal of African Economies, 16(5), 849-880.

Thank you