An economic perspective on school leadership and teachers’ unions in South Africa

Type Thesis or Dissertation - PhD Thesis
Title An economic perspective on school leadership and teachers’ unions in South Africa
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2016
This dissertation considers two factors that are considered critical to disrupting an existing culture of inefficiency in the production of learning in South Africa, namely school leadership and teachers’ unions.
This first part of the dissertation positions itself within a growing discourse in the economics literature, and in local policy circles, on the importance of harnessing the role of school principals as a route to educational progress. Using a unique dataset constructed by matching administrative datasets in education, the study aims to provide greater specificity to our understanding of the labour market for school principals in South Africa. Chapter two constructs a quantitative profile of this market with implications for policy reforms in raising the calibre of school leadership.Using a fixed effects estimation approach, chapter three suggests that principal changes are indeed initially detrimental to school performance, especially in poorer schools.After the discussion on school leadership, chapter four shifts its focus to measure teacher union impacts on educational outcomes by investigating a disruption hypothesis that student learning is lost as a direct consequence of teacher participation in strike action, particularly the intensive public sector strike of 2007.The study exploits heterogeneity that exists within schools in the level of teacher union militancy to control for confounding factors that may bias estimates of strike effects. An across-subject within-student analysis, following an approach by Kingdon and Teal (2010), suggests that teacher strike participation negatively affects learning for students in the poorest three quarters of schools in South Africa. However, the discussion reveals difficulties in isolating out, specifically, unobserved teacher characteristics that may bias the observed strike effect.

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