South African Schooling: The Enigma of Inequality

A Study of the Present Situation and Future Possibilities

  • Nic Spaull
  • Jonathan D. Jansen

Part of the Policy Implications of Research in Education book series (PIRE, volume 10)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-viii
  2. Nic Spaull
    Pages 1-24
  3. Shireen Motala, David Carel
    Pages 67-85
  4. Michaela Ashley-Cooper, Lauren-Jayne van Niekerk, Eric Atmore
    Pages 87-108
  5. Vijay Reddy, Andrea Juan, Kathryn Isdale, Samuel Fongwa
    Pages 169-187
  6. Tia Linda Zuze, Unathi Beku
    Pages 225-241
  7. Jonathan D. Jansen
    Pages 355-371
  8. Back Matter
    Pages 373-384

About this book


This volume brings together many of South Africa’s leading scholars of education and covers the full range of South African schooling: from financing and policy reform to in-depth discussions of literacy, numeracy, teacher development and curriculum change. The book moves beyond a historical analysis and provides an inside view of the questions South African scholars are now grappling with: Are there different and preferential equilibria we have not yet thought of or explored, and if so what are they? In practical terms, how does one get to a more equitable distribution of teachers, resources and learning outcomes? While decidedly local, these questions resonate throughout the developing world.

South Africa today is the most unequal country in the world. The richest 10% of South Africans lay claim to 65% of national income and 90% of national wealth. This is the largest 90-10 gap in the world, and one that is reflected in the schooling system. Two decades after apartheid it is still the case that the life chances of most South African children are determined not by their ability or the result of hard-work and determination, but instead by the colour of their skin, the province of their birth, and the wealth of their parents. Looking back on almost three decades of democracy in South Africa, it is this stubbornness of inequality and its patterns of persistence that demands explanation, justification and analysis.

"This is a landmark book on basic education in South Africa, an essential volume for those interested in learning outcomes and their inequality in South Africa. The various chapters present conceptually and empirically sophisticated analyses of learning outcomes across divisions of race, class, and place. The book brings together the wealth of decades of research output from top quality researchers to explore what has improved, what has not, and why."  

Prof Lant Pritchett, Harvard University


“There is much wisdom in this collection from many of the best education analysts in South Africa. No surprise that they conclude that without a large and sustained expansion in well-trained teachers, early childhood education, and adequate school resources, South Africa will continue to sacrifice its people’s future to maintaining the privileges of the few.”

Prof Martin Carnoy, Stanford University

"Altogether, one can derive from this very valuable volume, if not an exact blueprint for the future, then certainly at least a crucial and evidence-based itinerary for the next few steps.”

Dr Luis Crouch, RTI


learning attainments in South African schools South African government investment in education Underperformance in South African education State of education in South Africa Academic achievement in South Africa Post-apartheid education Education in South Africa inequality and education educational funding schools and inequality literacy in South Africa educational equity apartheid and schooling

Editors and affiliations

  • Nic Spaull
    • 1
  • Jonathan D. Jansen
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsStellenbosch UniversityCape TownSouth Africa
  2. 2.Faculty of EducationStellenbosch UniversityCape TownSouth Africa

Bibliographic information