Tuesday, March 29, 2011


An interesting research paper that summarises some of the main findings from a large research project undertaken by the Social Policy Research Group in the Department of Economics at Stellenbosch University.

The research that this document reports on considers how the low quality of tuition offered in schools in poor communities can entrench exclusion and marginalisation. Within this system of overlapping divides, most of these categories cannot be transcended easily. Race is a social construct but a sticky one, while language and culture are, to a large extent, also social identities into which you are born. Moving to a more affluent neighbourhood is not a reliable strategy to escape poverty, as it tends to be the consequence of social mobility rather than the cause of it. This leaves education as the only viable avenue for poor people who want to enter the top end of the labour market, with all its attendant economic benefits. Education therefore has a significant role to play both in providing opportunities to individuals as well as through its potential to unravel the apartheid-era social structure and create a more cohesive and less polarised society.
Thus, while there is much scope for education to challenge and transform individual lives and social structures, at least in principle, this study demonstrates why we are seeing so little evidence of this. Our research shows that by the age of eight there are already very large gaps in the performance of school children in the top 20% of the population (top quintile) versus those in the bottom 80% (bottom four quintiles). In other words, by an early age there are already stark distinctions between the prospects of children from poorer communities and those from more affluent communities.
According to our research, the education system generally produces outcomes that reinforce current patterns of poverty and privilege instead of challenging them. Unsurprisingly, we find that the inequalities in schooling outcomes manifest via labour market outcomes, perpetuating current patterns of income inequality.

Read more here http://www.mg.co.za/uploads/2011/03/29/low-quality-educ-as-poverty-trap-report.pdf

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