How Can Learning Inequalities be Reduced? Lessons Learnt from Experimental Research in South Africa

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


Most researchers would agree that the levels of educational inequality in South Africa are unacceptable and should be reduced quickly. However, there is less agreement on how these inequalities can be reduced or about how quickly they can be reduced. This chapter reviews experimental studies measuring the causal impact of specific policies or programs on educational outcomes in South Africa. The results are instructive about how to improve performance in the low performing part of the school system, but are also sobering with regard to how quickly one can expect to reduce educational inequalities. Programs and policies often do not noticeably improve learning or reduce inequality; and there is no evidence of anything reducing inequality terribly quickly. Frustration with how slowly things change in education should not prompt reckless implementation of untested radical interventions. The extreme levels of inequality in South African education may well justify more radical reforms than have previously been considered, but even then proper evaluation is required to avoid doing harm to the very schools and children who are meant to benefit from those self-same reforms. The most convincing and consistent South African evidence on how to improve learning and teaching in schools serving poor communities points to implementing a structured learning program in the early grades aligned to the existing curriculum, with additional materials integrated into the program, and with regular on-site support to teachers.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Basic EducationPretoriaSouth Africa

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